Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Apples, Apples, Apples

Last weekend, the weather was absolutely gorgeous. Temperatures were in the upper 70s and there was not a cloud in the sky. It was the perfect weather to take advantage of all the fall festivals taking place all over the state this month. First, we headed up to Franklin, PA for the annual apple festival. The drive through the countryside was simply breathtaking - the colors of fall are finally being fully displayed by the various trees and shrubs. The Apple Fest itself was a little too crowded for our tastes. We could barely shuffle among the various vendors, booths, and activities without having cider spilled on us or a cigarette being accidentally shoved in our faces. Not to mention, we had Matthew in the stroller which made it extra difficult to maneuver through the crowds. We spent a minimal amount of time there and bought only a gallon of apple cider (mainly because Matthew was thirsty and we had failed to bring more water - the thirsty kid ended up drinking half the gallon while we were there!).

On Sunday, we headed north into New York to attend a Fall Festival held at a nearby ski resort. Attending this particular festival has become an annual tradition for Paul and I. We enjoy wandering around looking at different craft vendors, sampling some local jams and jellies, petting llamas, pigs, and yaks, purchasing a bag of kettle corn, and parking ourselves on a nearby hill to munch on it. We look forward to it all year long!

Here are a couple photos of Matthew sitting in the same pumpkin patch this year and last year at the Fall Festival. Talk about pulling at this mommy's heart strings. He has gotten so big! Same annoyed expression on his face though. And no, we did not plan on him wearing almost the exact same outfit both years. Funny how things like that just happen.

Later that same afternoon, we headed over to Girard to an apple orchard. We had intended to swing by for only a few pounds of apples. But the apples were so beautiful, big, and inviting that before long we had closer to 30 pounds. It took a lot of restraint even then to not continue picking. And the whole lot only cost six bucks!

Matthew missed the whole concept of picking apples. Paul and I took turns hoisting him into the air to pick an apple or two off the tree. He successfully managed to pick a few, but then lost interest, choosing instead to take the apples we had already placed into our basket and trying to put them back on the tree (there is a video at the end of this post). It took Paul and I a couple of minutes to notice - basically, we realized that we kept picking apples off the tree, but our basket was not getting any more full. He finally bored of this activity and sat himself down under one of the trees and noshed on a couple apples (taking a large bite out of one before moving on to the next).

With so many apples, Paul and I immediately set to work making a delicious apple pie. We ended up eating a quarter of the pie for dinner. Paul ate the rest for his lunch the next day (and he wonders why his waistline continues to expand). Next, we made some apple butter, applesauce, apple challah, and apple cake. All of these goodies headed to the freezer to be saved for enjoyment during the winter months. I love this time of year!

This apple butter is a merge of many many different sources. I choose to use my slow cooker to make apple butter because it produces a wonderful aroma that fills your entire home. Homemade potpourri! Apple butter is delicious mixed into oatmeal, spread on toast, dolloped on pancakes, and blended with yogurt. It freezes well and makes a wonderful gift for the holidays.

And thanks to this recipe, Matthew discovered the CrockPot. It was love at first sight. Notice how he holds the paddle attachment to my KitchenAid hostage in his grubby little fist.

Oh, and running around sans pants is his new thing. Whatever.

Apple Butter

12 medium-sized apples (I used Northern Spy, Rome, McIntosh, and Mutsu)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt

Peel, core, and finely dice the apples. Pile them into your slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well to combine.

Cover and set the cooker to high. Let cook for one hour. Reduce to the lowest setting and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until dark and very thick. This will take anywhere from 8-11 hours, depending on the type of apples being used. When ready, it should look like this.

Uncover and continue to cook for about 1 hour, whisking vigorously every 10 minutes. Spoon into sterile containers.

And here is a short video we took on my camera of Matthew at the Apple Orchard. I tried to upload this three times before I finally was able to get it to work!

Matthew Picking Apples - October 8, 2011

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