Thursday, September 27, 2012

KAT'S COOKING KORNER: From the Orchard

The weather has been kind of funky around these parts this year. Way back in March, we had temperatures that soared into double digits, when we should have still had a blanket of snow covering everything. Beautiful and all, with barbeques getting dusted off all over town, but there was just one problem. It wasn't just the people who were fooled into thinking it was spring; the plants were as well. What's the problem with that, you  might wonder?

LOTS!

Warm weather in March is fine to shed the scarves, but when the trees and bulbs think about getting into the swing of things too, bad omens hang in the air. I don't care if temperatures fluctuate on my behalf, as I can get used to slopping around in my winter boots again, but when the trees start to bloom, they can't change their minds and go back into hibernation mode again so easily. Winter is bound to be back again and this past Spring it returned indeed. The result was instant death to the flowers that had valiantly attempted to awaken to the falsely-promised Spring. Magnolias molted their blooms in an instant. Lilacs luckily paused with buds on the verge of unfurling. The many fruit trees in the area were not so blessed though. Their pretty, scented flowers curled into brown petals that would never bear anything.

That equated to an absolute dearth of fresh fruit this summer.

Well, not exactly a complete dearth, as we still enjoyed strawberry picking in June and my raspberries are scrumptious even today. As far as the poor apples went though, I heard tell that 85% of the crops were destroyed when the impending frosts returned, killing fruit blossoms rampantly.

Last Year's Apple Picking
"No!", I cried, when I read the dismal facts. We are a family of foragers and I love traipsing around the countryside collecting fresh fruits and veg in season. We have gone apple picking since the girls were babes! Apple Land was apple-less. What were we to do?

Never fear my friends. I am an industrious individual and I've got computer access to the world. If there was an apple to be picked in Southwestern Ontario, I was determined to find it.

Click, click, click...

And don't you know, I found a place! A little closer to the lake is apparently a little more protected by the warmer winds. The lucky folks at Great Lakes Farms weren't completely immune to the early blooms and subsequent frosts, but they had apples! While it's early in the season, knowing that apples will be at a premium this year encouraged me to act fast. When I read that they had Galas and Macintoshes, we were out the door like a shot!

These trees were plenty full!
The apples looked even better close up!
Concensus was - Delicious!
We managed to collect a slight 25lbs worth of fresh, tasty apples for our consumption. The kids have had apples in their lunch every day since then. Today they got applesauce too! My favourite recipe for apples though is smooth and delicious Apple Butter. Pies are perfect for holidays, but butter is better for all the nut-picky schools around Ontario. Apple Butter makes a sandwich a scrumptious snack and this recipe comes from a favourite cookbook of mine called jam it, pickle it, cure it, by Karen Solomon.

APPLE BUTTER

Ingredients:

  • 8 lbs sweet apples (try using 3 different varieties for a more complex taste)
  • 2Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 Cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsps ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom

Directions:

  • Peel, core and quarter apples. Place them on 2 lightly greased cookie sheets in a 350F oven for 2 hours. After 1 hour, rotate the trays 180 degrees and switch the trays from bottom to top and vice versa.
  • Remove apples from oven and puree in a food processor or blender until very smooth (approx 4 min). Add remaining ingredients and process for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Store in a covered glass container in the fridge for up to 1 month (if it lasts that long!)

*Oh, and by the way. If you didn't figure out what my mystery gadget was the other day, it was an antique apple/potato peeler. Not near as handy as I would have liked, but none the less, it helped. Now get buttering and Enjoy!

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