First of all, I swam a mile today!!!! Wooohooo! It’s not my first, but it’s been awhile since I’ve dedicated enough time and energy to attempt one, and I feel like I might be getting back on track exercise wise. Last week I started swimming with my friend A. here and it’s made all the difference. We swim at the same pace and I find myself so much more relaxed in the water (and thus able to swim a lot farther) with her as a partner. So yay, I’m excited! Swimming is so the best justification for cooking all the time.

Another great justification for cooking all the time is the produce here. I know I’ve gushed about it in nearly every post, but I just can’t get over how local and fresh and organic and delicious and relatively affordable everything is. I spend all my money at market or at the co-op, true, but for me it’s all I spend money on. That and my membership to the YMCA so I can swim off the pounds. One of the foods I’ve been loving, and eating tons of, since moving here is the apples. Some are hit-or-miss, i.e. the Arkansas Black Apple, and some are just darn delicious like the Granny Smiths and the Golden Crisps. Some make great pies, some beg to be munched whole, some make great hiking companions, and some like to hang out in bowls of oatmeal. It all depends.

Some, however, want to be made into apple butter. It’s surprising that I haven’t made apple butter before, given my addiction to it, but I’m never buying the stuff again now that I know how easy it is to make. My one complaint is that the texture isn’t quite right–the jar I’m working on now is a little gummy and hard. It tastes won-der-ful, and it does spread, but it takes a little work. Does that mean I overcooked it? This batch of apple butter was also my first attempt at canning, so I hope I did everything right (I sterilized the jars and lids and then sealed everything in a hot water bath), but time will tell, I suppose.

Seriously, if you’ve never made a fruit butter before, get on it! Butter-free, fruity, and delicious on everything, you can’t go wrong. In fact, I have a pumpkin waiting around begging to be cooked into a nice batch of pumpkin butter…

Apple Butter

from Simply Recipes

8 lbs of good cooking apples (I used Granny Smith)
2 c apple cider vinegar
4 c water
8 c sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp allspice
Grated rind and juice of 2 lemons

Cut the apples into quarters, without peeling or coring them (much of the pectin is in the cores and flavor in the peels), cut out damaged parts.

Put them into large pot, add the vinegar and water, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cook until apples are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

Ladle apple mixture into a food mill and strain the mixture through, removing the seeds and peel. Measure resulting puree. Add 1/2 cup of sugar for each cup of apple pulp (approx. 8 cups). Stir to dissolve sugar. Add a dash of salt, and the cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, lemon rind and juice. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Cook uncovered in a large, wide, thick-bottomed pot (CP note: I used 2 large pots, and the cast iron one seemed to work a lot better than the stainless steel pot) on medium low heat, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Scrape the bottom of the pot while you stir to make sure a crust is not forming at the bottom. Cook until thick and smooth when a bit is spooned onto a cold plate and allowed to cool (1 to 2 hours).

Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal. If you plan to store the apple butter un-refrigerated, make sure to follow proper canning procedures.

Makes approximately 7 pints.