Cook in the Moment: Apple Butter

Apple Butter on a Fall Day in Colorado (c)2012 La Domestique

Thick and spreadable, apple butter is named for its texture, and contains no dairy. I’ve been doing a fair bit of preserving at home lately, but cooking apples down into a dark, caramelized puree is my absolute fall favorite. Every year I make a batch to mark the season, and thoroughly enjoy seeking out a new variety to try at the local farmer’s market. This year, after tasting through each apple at the market, I stumbled upon a new favorite: Alkmene. An old German apple, this variety stood out amongst the rest because of its tart, robustly apple flavor paired with dense and juicy flesh. I brought home a big bag of apples and pulled out one of my favorite preserving cookbooks, Canning for a New Generation, by Liana Krissoff. A tattered post-it marked the recipe for Spiced Apple Butter. This may be the easiest preserving ever, because the apples are stewed in a crockpot for 9-12 hours before the puree is ladled into sterilized jars and processed in a hot water bath. Cooking jam on the stovetop is much a quicker and more hectic process, and it’s nice to have a whole day while the preserve bubbles away in the slow-cooker to prepare for filling and processing the jars. As the fruit simmers, a festive aroma of baking spices fills the house. Cinnamon, clove, and allspice concentrate in flavor as the apples turn from cream-colored to dark amber, and the puree becomes thick and velvety.


This Past Week at La Domestique: Apples


This past week at La Domestique was all about cooking with apples. I visited a local apple orchard, and the difference in taste from supermarket apples was substantial. Freshly harvested apples are crisp and juicy, with a sweet, floral aroma and full, bright flavor. Here at La Domestique we explored the different varieties of apples and how to use them in both savory and sweet cooking.


In case you missed anything, I’ve got a recap:


Chicken, Apples, and Cream à la Normande

While searching for a savory apple dish to share with you, I came across a recipe for Chicken, Apples, and Cream à la Normande in Dorie Greenspan’s book, Around My French Table. The history of this dish is classically French. The Taste of France, by Robert Freson, describes Normandy, a region in northwest France as “one of the great gastronomic regions of France…” Normandy has long been famous for cream, eggs, butter, cheese, and cider. The food of Normandy is rich and satisfying, meant to keep you warm and fueled through a chilly, windblown day of hard work. A dish with the title à la Normande makes a reference to the dairy or delicious apples the region is known for.

In Dorie Greenspan’s recipe, boneless skinless chicken breasts are dredged in flour and browned in butter. An apple, onion, and exactly 8 mushrooms are tossed into the pot with a splash of chicken broth and a couple of tablespoons Calvados (apple brandy from Normandy). Once the alcohol burns off the dish is finished with heavy cream. Dorie’s recipe is lovely. It’s put together and precise. Heavy on the cream, light on the apples. My version is rugged and bold rather than sophisticated and serene. I want to taste the Calvados, to get a hit of brandy, so I added more. Of course one apples wasn’t enough, I had to throw in two. Also, I used a mixture of white button and crimini mushrooms for their earthy flavor. The sage from my garden brought a hint of holiday cheer. Lastly, I used more homemade chicken broth and less cream for a savory gravy rather than a creamy sauce. Use tart apples like Granny Smith or Jonathon for this recipe, so the flavor will stand up amongst all the other ingredients. Chicken, Apples, and Cream à la Normande is perfect for a chilly fall day and a big appetite. Serve it with roast Jerusalem artichokes or mashed potatoes. The dish is delicious the next day, so feel free to make it ahead and re-heat later.


Storyboard: Apples

Apple Storyboard (c)2011

Next to tomatoes, apples are a prime example of a fruit that has been bread out of flavor in the industrialized food system. It’s so important to support farmers who tend to apple orchards because they are guardians of unique heirlooms that would otherwise be extinct. Reading Jamie at Home, Cook Your Way to the Good Life, by Jamie Oliver, I learned that there are more than 7,500 varieties of apple across the world! Diversity is good for mother nature, and for keeping our food supply healthy. Enjoying a variety of apples stimulates the senses and makes life more interesting.


When planting an orchard, think about apples for eating and cooking. Think about when the apples will ripen and choose cultivars that ripen at different times for a nice long growing season. You can also keep apple trees in containers. Apples need to be cross-pollinated from other apple trees that flower at the same time.


Cook in the Moment: Apples


Each week I contribute a column to “Whole Foods Market Cooking Boulder” expanding on one of the 10 Ways Tuesday ideas. This week I made homemade apple butter from Liana Krissoff’s Canning For a New Generation. Then, I used the apple butter to make hand pies. Just click on the icon below for the full article.