Modern homesteading sounds like an oxymoron; I prefer to think of it as a simple lifestyle adapted to contemporary times. Technology has made leaps and bounds since the 1970s when the Firefox series was written. We do and make things differently now, but often times seek the very same outcome. We have traded in the act (art) of “making” in order to, well, “make” our lives easier. On Monday, we shared an article on Facebook that further discusses (criticizes?) the modern DIY movement.
Apple Butter, like most food, is a good example of this shift from making a product in the traditional way to producing in a more convenient manner. Apple Butter was a staple in my home growing up and my daughter has a new-found love of the spread.
Foxfire 3 has instructions on how to make apple butter using a twenty-gallon brass kettle heated by an open fire, and making your own butter stirring stick. With variations on technique, the stories shared by the people interviewed give much more insight than simply listing their recipe’s ingredients.
As a way to compare the evolution of homesteading, we share two recipes for Apple Butter this week.
The first requires a fire (return next Wednesday to learn how-to build the perfect campfire) and sealed crocks. No measurements please.
The second is from friend Virginia Willis’ cookbook, Bon Appetit, Y’all, and is adapted to a “modern” kitchen using the stovetop and mason jars (for those of us don’t have the time to build a fire, or space for a brass kettle—though I love the thought of the wood fire).
Regardless of your preferred recipe, apple butter is always delicious on a warm buttermilk biscuit.
APPLE BUTTER, from Foxfire 3:
Recipe from Pauline Henson and Mrs. Charlie Ross Hartley of Vilas, North Carolina
Wash, slice, core and peel the required number of apples. Put a little water in the brass kettle first and heat, and then add the slices of apple filling the kettle nearly full. Cook them down, and stir them to prevent sticking. After they are cooked down, add molasses to thicken. The molasses is added after the apples are cooked down to keep the butter from being lumpy. Just before it’s done, add sticks of cinnamon to taste. Then, when it’s so thick you can almost cut it with a knife, put it up in half gallon or gallon crocks; place a cloth over the top, and seal the crocks with paraffin.
JONAGOLD APPLE BUTTER*
5 pounds tart apples (such as Jonagold, Winesap, Jonathan, Empire, or Granny Smith), peeled, cored and cut into eighths
1 cup apple juice or water
½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 to 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of fine sea salt
Combine the apples and juice in a large, heavy- bottomed saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to love and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the apples are very soft, 30-45 minutes. Add the brown sugar granulated sugar, ground cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and salt. Continue to cook until the apple butter is thick enough to mound when spooned onto a plate, about 45 more minutes.
Meanwhile, place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Sterilize the ½ pint canning jars and lids in boiling water, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Remove the jars from the water and place upside down to drain on the prepared rack. Remove the lids from the water and dry with a clean towel. Turn the sterilized jars right side up on the rack, using tongs or a kitchen towel to protect your hands. When they are cool enough to handle, dry them with a clean towel. Set aside.
When the apple butter is cooked, fill the hot jars. For each jar, insert a canning funnel and carefully ladle in the jam, allowing at least ¼ inch of headroom. Clean the rims of the jars with a clean, damp towel and tightly secure the lids. Process them in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes. Store the unopened jars of apple butter at room temperature for up to 1 year. Once a jar is opened, store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
*Reprinted with permission from Bon Appétit, Y’all: Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking by Virginia Willis, copyright © 2008. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House. Photo credit: Ellen Silverman © 2008