An Artist's Quest

Bounty: when life gives you apples make apple butter

I have been reflecting on the word bounty this week.  My ginormous Webster’s Third New International Dictionary gives the following as the first five meanings for bounty: 1. Goodness, kindness, virtue, 2. Liberality in bestowing gifts of favors; gracious or liberal giving; generosity, 3. Something that is given generously or liberally, 4.yield esp. of a crop, 5. Reward, premium or subsidy to encourage industry.  What a fine word bounty is, so much packed in it, making it the perfect hearty precipice from which to resolutely leap into the new year.  Last year I wrote and made art about surviving abundance two times, once the week of November 26th and again the week of December 13th.  Both times I was addressing a sense of overwhelm and over commitment, I would like to flip that idea on it’s head and think about these times in terms of bounty; “something that is given generously or liberally”.  How to take the bounty of this life and like my mother, use it well;  “put up” the harvest like the jeweled jars of jam in the pantry, share as much as possible, give it away, share it, be “be gracious and liberal giving”. My art response this week is a photo of the reward for my sister’s and my industry.  We dug through our mom’s freezer (she gladly shared, she needs her freezer empty for this years bounty!) pulling out bags of frozen cherries, peaches, apricots and plums and transformed them through the alchemy of heat and sugar into 16 jars of peach/apricot jam, 7 jars of cherry/peach jam, 6 jars of cherry/plum jam. All this along with 12 jars of apple butter from those late clinging apples on Monday’s photo gave me the inspiration for my year of bounty ahead.  I leave you with these thoughts as well as my mom’s recipe for apple butter that is cooked for hours in a Dutch oven.  It is adapted from her family recipe that traditionally would have been cooked in an iron pot over an open fire during harvest time.  It is delicious! Such a concentrated apple flavor enriched by a vivacious company of spices it can raise a lowly piece of toast to its full destiny.  Try it, it’s really quite simple.  Feel free to send me questions about the process (I can always ask the master, my mom Mary, for advice).

Mary’s Dutch Oven Apple Butter

10 pounds tart apples                               2 cups of apple cider

sugar                                                             grated rind and juice from 2 lemons

3 teaspoons cinnamon                              1 1/2 teaspoons cloves

1/2 teaspoon allspice

Wash, core and quarter apples.  Combine apples and cider in a kettle.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer (on top of the stove) until apples are tender and beginning to fall apart.  Stir several times during the cooking process.  Put the apples through a food mill or a colander with a wooden press.  Measure the resulting apple pulp.  For each cup of pulp add 1/2 cup of sugar for tart apples and 1/4 cup for sweeter apples.  Add lemon juice, rind and spices.  Place the mixture in a Dutch or another ovenproof container.  Set oven to 300º. The baking time varies due to the difference in water content of apples – minimum of 2 hrs.  Occasionally stir and scrape the sides of the kettle.  Taste for spices and sweetness and adjust to suit you.  Test for doneness by spooning a dab of apple butter on a saucer.  If little no/or little clear liquid forms around the dab of apple butter, it is done.

When the apple butter is nearly done, place 6 0z. canning jars  into a pan of water, top side down, to sterilize.  Guesstimate how many jars you will need by dividing the number of cups of pulp you started with in 1/2.  Again this may vary based on the moisture content of the apples.  The water should cover 1/3 to 1/2 of the jar.  Also place other tools you will use to fill the jars, i. e. a ladle and a wide mouth funnel into this or another kettle.  If the tools are plastic,  process with the lids. Bring the jars to a rolling boil.  Keep each jar in the water until you are ready to fill it.  Pour boiling water into another pan and add jar lids and rings.  Do not boil, but let them set until you put them on the jars.   Lift jars out with tongs or a heavy towel.  Proceed with filling the jars as soon as you prepare the lids.  Ladle the hot butter into the hot jars, trying to keep the butter off the top edge of the jar.  Check the top edge of jar and wipe away any spill so that the top is clean for the lid to seal.  Place the hot lid and the ring on the jar and tighten firmly.  Place the jar upside down for 5 mins. on a towel.  Continue until all butter is in jars.  Save some in a refrigerator container to have for tomorrow’s breakfast. Turn the jars right side up and gently tighten lid.  You will hear the lid ping when they seal.  A jar is not sealed if the lid pops back up when it is pressed down.  If any of your jars don’t seal store them in the refrigerator and use them first.

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