making honey apple butter
“So what is apple butter anyway,” you ask suspiciously, because frankly that sounds pretty weird.
It’s not actually all that weird. It’s really a kind of apple jam. It’s a baked reduction and you can flavour it in a bunch of different ways and I’m getting better at it and it’s getting better as I do. I believe it’s called ‘butter’ because it’s lovely and smooth with maybe just a hint of apple graininess in the texture, not because there’s any actual butter involved. It preserves FOREVER–the stuff stays good, and stays good some more, and stays good after that–and although it’s *time* consuming, it’s also very easy to make. Most of the time is spent prepping the apples to cook down; everything else is really just putting it in the oven and remembering to stir it a few times while it does its thing.
We finally broke out the nifty apple corer/slicer/peeler that Ted’s mom sent us and we put it to work on a bag of freshly collected apples. It worked BRILLIANTLY, reducing the time it takes to prepare enough apples for apple butter from over an hour down to about half an hour, and that included figuring out the ideal settings for it. If you have more than a few dozen apples to deal with, Iiiii would get one of these, ’cause wow.
The process for all apple butters is as follows; basically the only difference is how you decide to flavour it when you reach the “put sweetener in” stage.
Whrr! All done super fast. That was awesome. Into the pot!
I didn’t take any picture of pureeing the cooked down apples, but basically: put 1.5 cups of apple juice in with the apples, turn the heat on, stir a couple times as it boils to mush, then puree. I used my food mill this time, which is…honestly, about equal in pain-in-the-assery as putting hot apple glop into a blender. And then you’ve got applesauce to pour into a deepish flatish enamal cooking dish.
Put in a slow oven (around 325F) and cook for about an hour, stirring once or twice, until reduced by half:
Add honey, white sugar, and a teaspoon of salt. I used about a cup of honey this time, because that’s what I had available, and about 3 cups of sugar. (Our apples are VERY sour. YMMV; taste after putting the honey in & see what you think.) Adding the sugar & honey will refill the pot to about the previous full mark.
Return to the oven, stirring every 20 minutes or so, until reduced by half again, probably around 90 minutes.
It turns an amazing shade as the sugar caramelizes. My favourite thing about making apple butter is the different colors they all turn, depending on what you’ve put in it. The honey is super red and lovely.
If you wish, stir in a teaspoon of cinnamon after you remove it from the oven.
Jar as you would anything else.
Eat leftovers straight from the spoon.
Miz Kit’s Honey Apple Butter
4lbs prepared (peeled, cored, sliced) tart apples
1.5 c apple juice/sweet cider
8 oz honey
3 c white sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
Put apples and apple juice into a large pot, cover, and boil until the apples are soft (about 30 minutes), stirring occasionally. Puree the mix in a blender/food processor/whatever until smooth. Turn into a deep, flat enamal-lined pan & put into a pre-heated oven at 325°F (150°C, 130°C fan assisted) and roast, stirring very occasionally, for an hour or until the puree has reduced by half.
Remove from oven. Stir in honey, sugar and salt. Return to oven for 1.5 to 2 hours, stirring slightly more frequently. Add cinnamon when it comes out of the oven. Jar as you normally would, or refrigerate and be prepared to eat a great deal of apple butter over the coming weeks. Makes around 48oz/6 8oz jars.
Kitsnacks: Cocoa Brownies
This is our family’s go-to brownie recipe:
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c flour
1/3 c cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temp or softer
1 tsp vanilla
Whisk the dry ingredients together. Add butter, eggs and vanilla and mix. Scrape into a 9×9″ buttered pan. Bake at 350°F for 15-18 minutes, until barely done (a fork inserted in the centre should come out slightly gooey but not *wet*). Allow to cool. Frost as desired. (I usually use chocolate buttercream frosting.) Eat! Makes 16 brownies.
(This recipe scales well and can be used to make up to a quadruple batch successfully. I’ve never tried anything larger. We often make double batches, though. :))
Sugar Wars: 30 Days Done
Today was sort of a weird day. I’d fully intended to get up and make pancakes and really just blow the whole thing out of the water, but we ended up going into Dublin, so I had a decent breakfast instead and headed in.
Had my beloved mint hot chocolate there, and thought “This is really very very sweet.” That was a kick in the pants. o.O
Ate a small sensible lunch, had some gorp for a snack, ate quite a lot of dinner and some cookies afterward, but stayed close enough to within my calorie allowance that it’s hard to condemn myself.
It’s clear it’d be very easy to slide directly back into bad habits. I feel like I’ve earned some indulgence, of course, but at the same time my indifference to sugar-based foods has grown considerably, and there’s no point in throwing that all away.
I have a couple of…plans, going forward. One, unexpectedly, may be going ahead and cutting that weekly hot chocolate, because…well, that was really very sweet. It’s the ritual of it that I’ll miss more than the actual drink. But hey, you know, Lent is coming up, and assuming I’m in the right ballpark for the calorie count on those hot chocolates, six weeks without would theoretically add up to about a pound and a half of bonus weight loss.
Other plans will be referenced when they crop up, because I don’t like making much in the way of predictions about this kind of thing. At some point I’m going to have to actually make a real effort to properly overhaul my diet, but honestly, I don’t see that happening in this next round. I think probably most of what I’m going to be doing is working on staying the sugar wars course, and perhaps making some modest effort toward a slightly lower average daily calorie count. A hundred would make a…very modest…difference, and is probably what I should be aiming for, realistically.
Anyway. I’m out for the night.
Sugar Wars: 28 Days Later
I’m doing this for 30 days and keep thinking “4 weeks” and also keep forgetting what day I started, so today is 4 weeks but I’m not quite done yet. Not, she said grimly, that this can ever be *done* for me, because I’ll just fall back into old habits if I loosen the rein. Old, tasty habits. Still, I may treat this as sort of a wrap-up post, although hey, don’t worry, there’ll be a new leg of it starting soon.
The only other time I’ve gone off sugar for this long I was MUCH stricter with myself. I went absolutely cold turkey that time. I’d say I’ve run somewhere between 80-90% on target this time, which, since I’ve stuck with it, is certainly sufficient for my purposes right now.
The scale hasn’t moved much over the past couple weeks, but I think that’s as much a combination of bad timing regarding my digestive cycle and biology, as anything else. I’ll see next week where things are. Even as things stand, I’ve lost 7 pounds in the past 4 weeks, which is completely reasonable. It’s not, of course, the mega-dramatic OMG LOOK WHAT AMAZINGNESS HAS HAPPENED JUST BECAUSE I CUT SUGAR that one dreams of, but it’s completely reasonable. It would also be better, of course, if I hadn’t regained ten pounds in the six months previous to starting these sugar wars, but there’s not much point dwelling on that either.
As much of a triumph as the actual cutting of sugar aspect is that I’ve kept a calorie calendar going for 28 days, too, despite eating out. I don’t really know why I’ve managed to, but it’s probably helped, because I was able to see that the problem wasn’t necessarily that I missed sugar, but that I’d cut so many calories that I missed FOOD. That probably helped me choose wisely about what to eat to make up for the sugar, instead of just throwing the towel in and eating an entire cake.
Exercise has been hit and miss, and when I say exercise I mean ‘getting my 10k steps in’ because I’m not even trying to accomplish anything else. Most weeks I average pretty close to 10K a day, but I don’t often hit 10K every day. I’d say I’ll try to do better, but realistically I won’t. There are days when I just don’t leave the house, and nothing I’m really honestly going to do is going to get me 10K steps on those days.
Anyway, so that’s not quite a wrap, but it’s where things stand at the end of four weeks.
Sugar Wars: Whoops
Despite my careless confidence yesterday, I went over calorie budget today. Given that I was below all week (drastically below on the day I inadvertantly barfed up dinner @.@), I’m not exactly concerned about this. It’d be nice if all this nonsense reflects in the scale on weigh-in day. We’ll see.
I went to a movie this afternoon and was quite hungry going in, but reluctant to get popcorn or any of the other crap available at the theatre. I stopped at a local bakery and got an eclair instead.
I mean, I ate it, because I was hungry, but I could tell from the first bite that I wasn’t really impressed with it. (I mean, beyond the fact that with one glorious exception, I’ve never had eclairs that I thought were as eclairs should be. The exception was at a farmer’s market where one of the businesses made eclairs that were the Platonic ideal. Like, these things were what God had in mind when God said “Let there be eclairs.” They used real, dark chocolate, almost a ganache, and chantilly cream, and a lavendar blossom on top, and they were *perfect*. As it happened, the last time I saw that company at that market, I stopped to tell them that these were the perfect eclairs. The guy said to the woman, “See?! I *told* you so!” and then they were never there again. Perhaps I broke the spell?)
None of that was the point. The point was that normally even if an eclair wasn’t the Platonic Ideal, I’d have been all like “eclair nom” and I was much more “eclair meh”.
It’s certainly nice to be past the murderous stage of this, to feel like I’ve turned a corner. I know all too well that it would be exceptionally easy to fall right back off the wagon, but right now, at least, it’s nice.