Home Cookin'
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Written By Ellen Verni
illustrated by Nicholas Verni

Home Cookin' is a food column that appears in the Windham Journal, Phoenicia Times, Olive Press and The Mountain Eagle, weekly newspapers in upstate New York. Here is a tasty sampling of the Home Cookin' column.

Dutch Treat

There is a line drawn in life: on one side are those who like apple butter and on the other, those who do not. Perhaps it is the awkward color that makes people hesitate to spread it on their toast. Or, maybe even the word butter included in the name sort of throws people off -- butter in a jar. I think I was drawn to this concoction as child precisely because it looked like mud.

I was one of those little girls who were an adamant mud pie chef. I would wait eagerly for the rain to stop so I can throw my boots on and create new and better pies, soups, and stews in my favorite mud hole.

While shopping with my mom one day, I spied a jar of black oozing liquid on the shelf next to the boring grape jellies. I was intrigued. Before that, I had to content myself with slurping down black bean soup as an edible substitute to mud pie cuisine.

Now here was something much better, something actually sweet and portable. I was hooked, and have been ever since.

However, my jar of apple butter resides on my refrigerator shelf strictly for my enjoyment. No others in my household have been beseeched or convinced of its attraction. That is all right; more for me.

Apple butter, also know as Lattwaerrick, by the Pennsylvania Dutch, was introduced to North America by German speaking settlers from Germany and Switzerland at the end of the seventeenth century. The immigrants required foods that would remain fresh during the long voyage to America, and apple butter required no refrigeration.

Apple butter, in fact, contains no butter. Its ingredients are simply apple and apple cider. Sugar was not added to apple butter until the turn of the century, when it was used as a thickener to cut down on cooking time.

The traditional way of making apple butter is to bring about 2 quarts of apple cider to a boil, add about 4 quarts cut up apples, cover, and cook over low heat for about 3 hours. The trick is to stir constantly, because it tends to burn easily.

Upstate New York is the home of baked apple butter. Farmwomen came up with a way to do their chores, and make apple butter at the same time. Not having the time to stir apple butter constantly for 3 hours, they learned to bake it instead.

Included are two recipes for apple butter, one the traditional stovetop method and the other a baked apple butter recipe.


APPLE MATH
1 pound apple = 4 small or 3 medium or 2 large apples
1 pound apples = 3 cups diced or 2 3/4 cups sliced apples
2 pounds apples = one 9-inch apple pie
Not-So-Traditional Apple Butter
Using a variety of apples, a good blend is to have 1/3 of them Red Delicious.

INGREDIENTS:
4 pounds mixed apples, such as Jonagolds, Spies, Gravensteins, Golden Russets, Mutsus, and Red Delicious, peeled, cored, and cut into eighths
1- 1/2 cups apple cider
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar, to taste
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Put the apples, cider, and lemon juice in a large enamel or stainless steel pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, and cook until the apples are tender and soft. Remove from the heat and purée until smooth, using a food mill, food processor, or potato masher. If your apples are flavorful, use no spice, or very little. Add the sugar and spice at this point and stir to mix well.

Return the pureed apples to the pot and cook over very low heat, stirring often, until the mixture is reduced to about half its volume; this will take about 1- 1/2 hours. Test for doneness by placing a spoonful of apple butter on a plate: when it cools there should be no moisture around the rim of the fruit.

Fill sterilized jars with the hot apple butter, leaving 1/4-inch headspace, put on the lids and tighten; process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes. Makes about 2 pints.


DID YOU KNOW...
...that sniffing apples can calm you down? Researchers at Yale University have discovered a new route to relaxation; inhaling the scent of apple. Tests show that just the scent of an apple can reduce tension and pain associated with migraine headaches and allay anxiety attacks.
Baked Apple Butter

INGREDIENTS:
24 cups pared, cored and quartered cooking apples (about 7 pounds)
2 cups apple cider
1 cup cider vinegar
3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Heat apples, apple cider and vinegar to boiling in a Dutch oven or stockpot; reduce heat. Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until apples are very soft, about 1 hour.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Press apple mixture through a sieve or food mill, or mash with potato masher just until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour mixture into stainless steel or enamel pan, 15x10x2-inches. Bake until no liquid separates from pulp, stirring every 30 minutes to prevent sticking, about 4 hours.

Immediately pour mixture into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars. Seal and process in boiling water bath 10 minutes. Makes about 6 half-pints apple butter.

HOME COOKIN' presents
The Kitchen Chronicles cookbook.

This wonderful cookbook contains over 150 recipes from Curried Rice Soup to Blackberry-Walnut Conserve. Richly illustrated with Nick Verni's charming drawings, the accompanying stories are heart-warming, humorous, and peppered with the spice of life.

Sure, I'd love to take a look at the Kitchen Chronicles. Take me there!



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