Saturday, October 19, 2013

Apple Butter

We're off bright and early this morning up to the Hudson River Valley in New York for our second round of apple picking this season. Pumpkin picking and shopping in the quaint town of Warwick is also on the agenda. I can't think of a more perfect way to spend a Saturday.
I spent last Sunday night using the apples we picked on our first excursion to make apple butter. We didn't go crazy picking massive quantities because we knew we were doing this Upstate New York trip. The amount of apples I brought home lent itself perfectly for making a small batch of butter. My go to resource for home preserving is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. It's like an encyclopedia of canning, only better because it has over 400 recipes in it. I'm still a novice at canning and preserving but the recipe for making homemade apple butter. seemed simple foolproof enough for this beginner.

It was.
The apples cooked on the stove top, made their way into the food mill and then off to thicken up in a saucepan for an hour or two. All the while filling our home with the most glorious scent. The recipe says it should turn out eight 8-ounce jars but I ended up with the eight 8-ounce as well as 2 pint jars.

I'm not going to lie, as I checked periodically for thickening there was some taste testing. Then some more. And then some more. And even more on top of that. This stuff is sooo good! Like the best apple pie filling you ever tasted. Imagine a gorgeous roast pork just slathered in apple butter? It's 6 am and I'm drooling at the thought of it.
Speaking of apple pie filling, that's what will be happening after today's haul. Some applesauce too. Suddenly January and February don't seem so cold and dreary anymore.

Traditional Apple Butter

6 lbs. apples, peeled, cored and quartered (I actually chopped them so they would soften faster)
3 cups of water
6 cups of granulated sugar (Don't panic - you're making 8-10 jars of the stuff, remember?)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine apples and water. Bring to a boil over medium - high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until apples are soft. About 30 minutes.
Working in batches, transfer apple mixture to a food mill or a food processor fitted with a metal blade and puree just until a uniform texture is achieved. Do not liquefy. Measure 12 cups of apple puree. (I did not measure it out)
In a clean, large stainless steel saucepan, combine apple puree, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens and holds it's shape on a spoon. (You can also chill a small plate and drop a spoonful of puree onto it. If it creates a watery rim around it then it is not done.)
Meanwhile, prepare your canner, jars and lids.
Once thickened completely, ladle hot butter into hot jars, leaving 1/4" of headspace. You can remove air bubbles and adjust the headspace if necessary. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down only until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.
Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes then remove jars, cool and store.

*remember, it takes 24 hours for jars to seal completely. leave them alone!
*any jars that do not create an airtight seal must be refrigerated and used right away

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wall Art

It started with the notion that I needed a bar cart. I have plenty of flat surface in my living room and dining room to store/display liquor, but when we entertain, we end up lugging it all into the kitchen. There we set up a makeshift drink station that generally impedes food serving and we wind up sitting and standing around the kitchen counter all night.
I realized we needed something like a bar cart where we could store liquor and prepare drinks in the same location. Having it set up like that would also make my guests feel more comfortable about making themselves that next cocktail instead of me playing bartender all night long. And so I began hunting for a vintage bar cart.
Looking for specific vintage items is a funny business. I have found in the many, many years I have been scouring flea markets and thrift shops that they always provide exactly what you want and need. It may take a while, but if you have your heart set on a specific item; you will eventually find it.
A few weeks ago I found myself roaming through my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore (my absolute favorite place to haunt anymore) when I spied this odd looking console table. Heart racing, I dashed over to it to give it a closer look. I was just in the nick of time too - a couple just walking into the room spied it at about the same time I did - but I physically got to it first. There was no tag describing the table or listing a price. It appeared to be some sort of drop leaf console. Only the extension folded over the top instead of down the side making the top a double thickness. The legs reminded me of an upright piano. There were so many of them! I have never seen anything like it.
The couple was standing a few feet back watching me examine the piece and obviously waiting for me to lose interest and walk away. No chance buddy. They didn't realize they were dealing with an old pro. I started to unfold the top and he dashed over to help me. As it turned out, the top piece folds out to create a square table. The additional legs support the center and a piece slid out of the center portion to support the top when fully extended. It needed to be restained and cleaned up a little but it was an absolutely gorgeous piece.
The husband turned to his wife and said quite loudly, "Come on, She likes this way too much." They left. I took the opportunity to find a volunteer who promptly priced this little treasure at $39.00. I had found my bar.
When I got home, wiped it down and finally found a great spot for it in our living room under an already hanging set of black and white prints of Central Park.

A week or two went by. I started to feel restless. The wall behind it started looking so blah. So typical.
Other trips to Habitat started turning up pieces of artwork I couldn't resist. Beautiful pieces of Parisian street art from the 40's and 50's and some gorgeous dark landscape pieces. I began amassing a tiny collection. A dollar for one, three dollars for another, and I broke the bank with a signed piece of that Parisian street art that they charged me a whole $15.00 for. I mean, really.

These pieces inspired me and a whole vision began to unfold in my head. Over the weekend I went to my local craft store and purchased 2 unfinished wooden plaques and spent Saturday afternoon staining them out in the garage.

I pulled out all of the photos and oil paintings I have inherited from my father's side. My great grandmother, great grandfather and even great great grandfather! I am lucky to be entrusted with all of this rich family history.

By Monday night all the components were together and everything was ready to assemble.

Nineteen dollars worth of art, portraits of my great and great great grandfathers, two $2.00 wooden boards and a set of antlers I found at a flea market this summer created a wall gallery that is anything but typical. 
All said and done the project (with staining supplies) came in at under $75.00. Can you believe it? The satisfaction I have in it is priceless and explains why every weekend you can find me poking around thrift stores and flea markets. 

P.S. I'm not just lucky in finding artwork and antlers. There's a bunch of new stuff in the shop - some really fantastic pieces for your holiday table and entertaining. Link is in sidebar! 

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Weekend

Johnson's Corner Farm


 We like Fuji's best.

My girl.

Love that family of 3 in the back of that wagon. We are blessed to have people like the Sorensen's in our life.

Biking home some yard sale treasures

Chef and Sous Chef

Nigel Slater's Coq Au Riesling. Delish.

I should be packing right now for a quick work trip I leave for tomorrow morning but instead I am sitting here basking in the afterglow of another glorious weekend.
Saturday my best girl and I went apple picking with three of the greatest friends we have ever been blessed to have. After a few hours of farming we all went out for a delicious lunch and some antique store shopping. My kind of afternoon! 
Sunday had some mandatory housework on it's To-Do list (why is laundry neverending?) but my girl and I still found the time to take a 5 mile bike ride through some local neighborhoods. She discovered the magic of the yard sale and the thrill of the hunt was enough to keep her tired little legs pedaling for much longer than they normally would have.
We winded it down with Charlie and I in the kitchen together working on a proper Sunday dinner.
Coq au Riesling anyone?
The only upside to this week is that it will be so crazy for me with work obligations that in the wink of an eye it will be Friday night and we will be excitedly making plans for another weekend together.

What did you do this past weekend?