Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day Trip and Apple Butter

I haven't really been a good blogger lately.  Al and I found the perfect house (ok, it's the second perfect house that we have found so far and it has bad radon problems- blahhh), and I need to find a full time job in order to make this work.  I have a few interviews coming up, so cross your fingers for me!  

Last weekend I was able to take my mind off of all of this because Al and I were lucky enough to be invited to go to some Wisconsin wineries with one of my best friends who is doing a story on them for a magazine.  My mother did not raise a dumby, and I eagerly accepted her invitation.  It was one of the best trips of my life.

First we drove up to an apple winery in Bayfield, WI appropriately titled Bayfield Winery.  We ended up driving to their production and storage building.  Yes, I was tempted to steal an entire box of wine (especially since we helped the lady move some into her truck to bring to the shop, I definitely had the opportunity).

From there we drove to the family orchard where they grow all of their future boozy apples.  Oh, and this is where you can serve yourself free samples of ALL of their wine.  If I liked apple wine more I would have had to be brought out to the car in a wheelbarrow.  In addition to wine they also sell all sorts of apples and apple-based products, it was hard to leave without hauling a truckload of jelly and bbq sauce out of there.  
Where's the pitchfork?

I did however buy a whole bushel of Macintosh apples.  It was an impulse buy for sure, but because they were "2nds" (aka had bruises) I got the whole thing for $16.  
Happiness is too much fruit

Now I had no idea how to use up all of these apples, especially since my uncle was awesome enough to bring over 4 honking bags full of apples for the horses, so it wasn't like they needed them or anything.  I didn't want to make any baked goods, so I settled on making apple butter (they had some at the orchard and I almost bought some- but it was $5 for way too small of an amount for my cheap self).  I have never made apple butter before, but I figured that it had to be easy.  And it is.  You will thank yourself profusely if you make some.

Here is my recipe/method

Roughly chop up your apples 
Fill your slow cooker about 3/4 of the way.  If you pack the apples in there you are going to have some serious overflow onto your countertop (not that I would know a thing about that...)
Add any desired spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, cloves)- these can always be adjusted later so start out with conservative levels.  This will turn out just as amazing without spices.
Turn your slow cooker onto the high setting, put the lid on it, and walk away for 3-4 hours.
Don't try taking an afternoon nap, the tempting aroma of apple goodness will wake you up.  Yes that is a step.
After 3-4 hours reset the lid on the slow cooker so that it is crooked- this will allow the heat to escape and your apple butter will reduce to make it more buttery and less saucy.  Carefully taste to see if you are pleased with the spice direction that you are going into and adjust to taste if necessary.
Walk away and consider yourself the apple queen or king as you close your eyes and continue to appreciate what an awesome aroma you just put into motion.
Return periodically (once every hour or so) and stir.
After another 3-4 hours your apple butter should be so tempting that you can't wait another minute for it to be done.  Unplug and let cool slightly.
Whip out your immersion blender or blender of choice and pulverize your apple butter to your desired consistency. I like having some texture in my AB, so I only lightly blended it.  Note- if you added whole cloves you may want to remove them at this point so that your AB doesn't taste like an incense stick.

Serve straight up on a spoon, on your toast, as an apple dip, on top of pancakes, with pretzels, with anything that you can think of that sounds good!

Eat within a week or so or else go through the canning process so that you can have apple butter all year long.

Some more Bayfield shots, just so you can kind of see how charming this place is

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