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Apples bringing neighbors together

Last year, on the first day of fall my doorbell rang. I live on a quiet street and rarely have spontaneous visitors, so I expected to either find a child nervously waiting to entice me into buying chocolate for a school fundraiser or discover a leaflet attached to my doorknob trying to convince me to vote for a candidate in the upcoming election. I was surprised to see a new neighbor standing at the door with her grandmother. She’s not someone I know well; our previous connection consisted of a brief introduction over a bargain table at a yard sale. She explained that from her upstairs window, she had noticed that my tree was brimming with apples rapidly transitioning from green to red. She was wondering if I would have any apples to spare and brought some bags for picking just in case. I was thrilled to share and equally excited to not have to pick them up off my lawn.

A couple days later I noticed a jar on my front porch. The hand-stamped label read APPLE BUTTER followed by a note, “Thanks for sharing your apples! Have a happy fall. I like it on wheat pancakes or buttered toast…or just by the spoonful!” I was touched that she had thought of me and put such care and attention into her gift. As I unscrewed the lid to a blast of cinnamon, it dawned on me that this was the first time I had ever had anything made from my apples. Each year for the last decade, I’ve made myself a broken promise to harvest my apples and create some yummy, sweet and gooey concoction perfect for a crisp fall night. Then each fall turned to winter, and I plant the seed in my mind for next year.

I’m grateful for my neighbor’s knock on the door that day. This experience reminded me that life can be so completely simple and satisfying.

I love how food can be the great connector bringing people together. I love that generosity and being neighborly is still alive, and we only have to give it to receive it. I love that the simple act of picking apples and making apple butter deepened a bond between a grandmother and her granddaughter. I love that I’m truly inspired to keep my promise to myself this year.

As summer is drawing to a close and I gaze out the window at my apple tree, I’m making a public vow to get up one lazy Saturday morning, pull on some faded jeans, put my hair in a sloppy ponytail, pluck apples off my tree, and create something yummy, sweet and gooey to share with someone. I challenge you to grab your apron, dust off that rolling pin and make something to share with someone in your life. Better yet, make something for someone you want to get to know better.

Apple Butter Oven Style

This recipe is adapted from the 1959 Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook.

  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 tbsp. salt
  • 6 lbs. apples, cored, peeled and sliced
  • 2 quarts apple cider
  • 3 ½ – 4 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. cloves
  • ½ tsp. allspice
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Directions:

1. Combine water and salt. Add apples then drain, but do not rinse the apple slices.

2. Process in a food processor until the apple slices turn to pulp. There should be about 2 quarts of pulp and juice.

3. Combine the pulp and juice with the cider in a large baking dish. Place in a 350 degree oven and let it simmer about 3-3 ½ hours, stirring thoroughly every half hour, until the mixture is cooked down about half and is thick and mushy.

4. Return mixture to food processor and blend until smooth.

5. Combine sugar and spices, add to the apple butter and return to the oven. Continue simmering for approximately 1 ½ hours, stirring every 30 minutes.

Yields 2 quarts

For canning: Pour into hot jars, adjust the lids and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

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