It’s fall in Vermont and that means fresh apples! We love picking apples at the local orchard, as well as experimenting with the wild varieties that grow around our farm. Macintosh and Cortland are two of the most common and readily available apple cultivars. However, the Northeast is actually home to over 7,500 cultivars, many of which were developed over 400 years ago. Our fields and woods are filled with apple trees that bear fruit resembling the Golden Russet, Jonagold and Jonathan cultivars. This apple butter is extra special with a few different types of apples but using all the same apples creates delicious butter as well.
Apple butter is similar to to jam, with a rich apple flavor. Spread it on toast, mix it into yogurt, put a dollop on oatmeal or use as a cheese pairing. Using maple sugar as a sweetener increases the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, as well as creating more depth of flavor. Apple flavor is enhanced by using the entire apple, skin and core included, and then straining the pulp through a food mill.
4pounds apples (about 10 to 12 medium), washed, unpeeled, uncored, cut into 1-inch chunks
½cup apple cider vinegar
12-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1star anise pod
1-2 cups granulated maple sugar
Small pinch kosher salt
Combine apples, vinegar, allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, ginger, star anise pod and 4 cups water in a large, heavy bottomed pot over high heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are completely softened and the liquid has reduced by half, 30 to 40 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Leaving behind allspice berries, cinnamon sticks and star anise pod, pass the apples through a food mill.
To finish on the stovetop: Place apple pulp in the same large, heavy-bottomed pot, add granulated maple sugar and stir to dissolve. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick, glossy and a deep golden brown (somewhere between honey and molasses), 2 to 2 1/2 hours. To test the thickness, spoon a bit onto a plate: The mixture should set almost immediately with no spreading or wateriness. If it’s not there yet, cook another 8 to 10 minutes and test again. When the desired consistency is reached, season with kosher salt.
To finish in the oven: Heat oven to 300 degrees. Place apple pulp in a 9-inch by 13-inch (3-quart) baking dish, add granulated maple sugar and stir to dissolve. Place in oven and let cook, stirring every 30 minutes or so, until mixture is thick, glossy and a deep, golden brown color (somewhere between honey and molasses), 3 to 3 1/2 hours. To test the thickness, spoon a bit onto a plate: The mixture should set almost immediately with no spreading or wateriness. If it’s not there yet, cook another 20 to 30 minutes and test again. When the desired consistency is reached, season with kosher salt.
Late May brings us abundant rhubarb and the season’s first strawberries. My grandmother had a huge patch of rhubarb and when my family sold her house, I brought part of it to my garden. I have many plants that are special to me based on their history in someone else’s garden. The rhubarb ties me to my childhood, and cool spring nights, visiting my grandparents in Huntington.
It’s May in Vermont and the stores are packed with strawberries. Our own local strawberries won’t be available until June, but it’s hard to resist buying this delicious little fruit as soon as it becomes available. This sauce can be used in a myriad of ways. Try it over cheesecake, ice cream or Greek yogurt. It’s also a fantastic addition to savory dishes. Serve it alongside a roasted pork loin or on a cheese platter.
Maple Spice Rubbed Smoked Pulled Pork
Smoked Pulled Pork served with Maple Sugar Hamburger Buns and Chipotle Maple Barbecue Sauce
This smoked pulled pork takes several hours to make, but will also last several meals (maybe!). Right now we are obeying our governor’s order to stay home, so it feels especially satisfying to spend so much time creating something this delicious. I use a very simple Weber Grill, charcoal and water soaked apple chips.
This treat is simply other worldly. It’s a delicious combination of salt and sweet, punctuated by the pleasing crunch of popcorn and peanuts. The Salted Maple Sugar Caramel is a delicious addition, adding the flavor of caramelized maple. This treat is excellent as a packaged gift. Drop some off on a neighbor’s porch, bring a bag to a friend who needs a lift or make a big batch and drop it off at your favorite local hero’s place of work.
We are five weeks into quarantine and teaching from a distance and things are feeling hard! Just in the nick of time I came across a recipe for chocolate babka on the Food and Wine site. I adapted it to include maple sugar and maple syrup and the results are spectacular. The dough sits in the fridge overnight and then needs to rise for 2 hours the next day.
This recipe comes to me from a great friend and baker, Joanna Beall. She has created endless delights using maple sugar and maple syrup! This recipe also calls for maple extract, which is a natural flavoring and will enhance the maple-y flavor. Bake up some cookies for those you love!
This vinaigrette has been part of family gatherings for as long as I can remember. My aunt Myra is a great cook, with a focus on health and well being. This vinaigrette is amazing on sales butalso great on steamed vegetables.