I made some food gifts this year with Kathleeny. We made apple butter (this was our 2nd annual run) and cranberry jam (a new addition) and I gotta say they both turned out great. The apple butter is majorly time consuming: it requires stirring stirring stirring for literally two hours to get the right reduced consistency. The cranberry, however is speedy. And there's something special about it to me that it's truly seasonal. It is (as the tag purports) great on toast with butter, smeared on cheese or with pork tenderloin (rub this on it first before cooking and you'll lose your mind!)
The apple butter is liquid gold, my friends. Despite its watching-grass-grow slowness to make, it does not disappoint. A piece of toast with spicy apple butter will make your toes curl. I have a friend who considers it a food group in and of itself.
I know canning (which in my opinion should be called "jarring") sounds scary and complicated but it's really not. Try it once and you'll be hooked. Here is a great website to get you started. Just make sure you get one of these. We've been working with silicone glove-mitts that get HOT. Plus it makes us feel like him. And that does make canning scary.
(I cannot remember for the life of me where I recovered this recipe)
3 12oz. bags fresh cranberries
1 1/2 c fresh squeezed OJ
1 1/2 c water
3t vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients in a large non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and gently simmer for about 15 minutes, until the berries soften and break apart. You can kinda smoosh them against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon and help them along. That's what I do but I'm not known for my patience. Take the mixture off the heat and cool slightly (you want the jam to still be quite hot when you put it into sterilized jars. To clean and sterilize jars, run them through the dishwasher (don't run the lids in there or they could warp) and keep them hot until you fill them. Then follow proper canning procedures from the website above.
yields 7 full 8oz. jars and some left over for the fridge!
(adapted from this recipe)
4 pounds granny smith or gala apples
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
3 cups sugar
pinch of salt
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground cloves
1/2 t ground allspice
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Quarter the apples without peeling or coring and place them in a large, wide, non-reactive pot. Add the vinegar and water and cover. Bring to a boil and then simmer until apples are very soft, about 20ish minutes. Ladle the mixture into a food mill or chinois and using a pestle or reamer, push the pulp through the sieve. Get as much pulp as you can out of the mix. Now, add your smooth apple sauce back to a clean pot. Add the sugar and spices and start simmering on medium heat while stirring constantly. This is the annoying part I was telling you about. Cook until thick and smooth. It takes about 2 hours. You can check its set-level by spooning a bit onto a plate fresh from the freezer. If it's thick and not runny it's done. Spoon hot apple butter into sterilized jars and follow proper canning procedures from the website above.
If you become a canning nerd, you can join this group!