Sunday, October 5, 2008

Kind of Apple-y

I grew up in a small suburban town, in a red brick house build by my Grandad. The house was surrounded on all sides by a big, lush garden. It was a great garden, with hiding places under the bushes, a swing and a small corner with lots and lots of rhubarb in summer. Mom used to make a mean rødgrød - a Danish fruit soup/jelly thing, served with cream and sugar (for the crunch) - out of those rhubarbs.

I wish I could have said it had had an apple tree, but it didn’t. It would have been perfect in it, though. It should have been one of those huge, old ones with big, gnarly branches, in the spring adorned with delicate white blossoms and come fall, full of red and yellow orbs, like mini chinese lanterns, swinging about in the rough winds. Maybe, if you were lucky, there’d still be a couple left for the first couple weeks of winter, too. Alas. No such tree.

Now, I live in the city, in an apartment, and I stil have no apple tree. But in my uncle’s little house, a mere 30 minute bike ride from where I live, there are apple trees. He has not one, not two, but a total of three different kinds of apple trees in his miniscule garden and they’re just perfect. The dream of apple tree climbing children all over the world, with thick branches that hang low to the ground but are nicely enough set apart as to not make it a dull climb. And the dream of all apple lovers in the world, to boot. Plenty of crispy, not-necessarily perfect looking, but perfect tasting, juicy apples. There’s just something about homegrown and homepicked that’s hard to match.

Whenever my uncle is kind enough to ask me come relieve him of some of his bounty, I live of apples, day and night. We have pork chops with sauteed apples and onions. Bright pink beet and apple slaw, for lunch, with a hunk of crusty bread. For breakfast, grated on top of oatmeal, with a spoonful of brown sugar. In cakes, oh, the cakes: Tarte Tatin, caramelized, buttery and flaky. Apple pie, with pretty latticed tops. Crumbles with vanilla custard. Layer cakes with almonds and apples.

I make applesauce, in big batches, for the freezer, to be used as a sweetener in homemade granola, or in an impromptu Danish æbletrifli, with layers of chunky applesauce, sugar-roasted breadcrumbs or crumbled macarons and softly whipped cream.

And I make apple butter, for spreading on toast or sandwiching between sponge cake layers. Apple butter, as you may or may not know, is essentially applesauce cooked down with sugar and spices, stored in tightly sealed glasses in the fridge. It’s easy to make, and keeps really well. And it's a perfect way to make that apple season last just a little longer.

Apple butter - from Kille Enna: Killes Køkken
- makes 2 400 ml. glasses

1,5 kg. apples (Belle de Boskoop is suggested, but really, any apple will do. Boskoops are awesome though, and one of my Uncle's trees are Boskoops. I'm ridiculously lucky)
200 ml. water
8 whole cloves
10 whole allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
100 g. golden sugar
200 g. soft brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
zest and juice of one lemon

Chop up the apples, peel, cores and everything. Bring to a boil with the water, turn down the heat and let it simmer until the apples go soft and mushy, about 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill or strainer.

Roast the spices in a small, dry pan. Grind to a fine powder in a spice mill.

Pour the strained applesauce back into a clean pot. Add the spices, salt, lemon zest and juice and sugar. Boil at low heat for 30-40 minutes, maybe covering half of the pot with a lid. Watch out, it spits and bubbles like crazy! Stir it every 5-10 minutes. While boiling, it will turn a little thicker and darker.

Sterilize 2 400 ml. glasses (or equivalents) - here's a guide as to how. Pour the still hot apple butter into the jars, put on the lids. Store in the fridge. The applebutter is also great made with a vanilla pod, omitting the other spices. Or a chili, chopped up, if you'd like to use the apple butter as a condiment with savoury foods.