I love the smell of spices and the warm feelings they elicit. When people think of the holiday season, they first call up certain aromas: nutmeg and cinnamon, cloves and ginger. When I was growing up my Dad worked very long hours and when he arrived home late at night, the first thing I smelled was the wonderful scent of the spices we hand-packed at the store. As soon as I smelled that sweet scent, I knew Dad was home. Today I’m at the store daily and I don’t even notice it anymore, but I guess I must also carry that holiday aroma on my clothes. Perhaps, now that my Dad is retired and not at the store every day, I should ask him if he can sniff those spices out on me!
Fall is apple season, and they were made to pair with warm spices. Cinnamon sticks, freshly grated mounds of nutmeg and spicy sweet cloves are all amazing when blended into an apple pie. The spices enhance the sweet tart apple taste and deepen the flavor as they melt into the filling. A piece of pie paired with a slice of sharp cheddar and a dark roast espresso is my kind of lunch!
In the Fall, one of my favorite things to make with whole spices is apple butter. I belong to a CSA and we get tons of apples in our share. With the children now on their own, I sometimes have way too many to eat while fresh. My daughter loves apple butter, so I make a big batch in the fall and it lasts for months. I make it pure without any additives or sweeteners because that is the way we love it. It’s quick and easy to make, and it makes the house smell festive and delicious.
Slow Cooker Apple Butter
4.5 lbs local apples
1 tsp whole cloves
½ c fresh apple cider
Wash and quarter apples. (There’s no need to peel or core since they will be going through a food mill later on.) Toss the apples and all the rest of the ingredients into the slow cooker. Turn on high for 5 hours or low for 8 hrs. Open and stir well. The mixture should be thick like jam and have very little liquid left. If there is too much, then cook a little longer. Run the mixture through a food mill or fine sieve until only skins and seeds are left. Mix well again and taste for sweetness. I prefer it quite natural and add nothing else, but a little maple syrup can be added for sweetness. Makes 1 quart.
This year’s apple bounty has also resulted in me playing around with a homemade apple cinnamon cordial. Every holiday I like to have a few simple beverage offerings. I serve both white and red wine, as well as prosecco. I also like to make one homemade signature cocktail. I have been steeping fresh local apples and whole cinnamon sticks in vodka, which I intend to slightly sweeten with maple syrup and then top with sparkling cider and a lemon wedge. The plan is to serve it in a cinnamon sugar rimmed glass. I can’t wait to sample the cordial when it’s done steeping! Stay tuned or follow me @ChristineSWhelan to see how it turns out.