Thursday, September 17, 2015

Fermented Apple-Cranberry Butter

Like anyone, there are things I am passionate about, and things I could care less about.  There are things I enjoy doing, and things I dread.  Independent of all that, there are some things that are just hard-wired into me, and I am simply compelled to do them.
One of these hard-wired attributes that I'm known for all around town is my unwillingness to throw anything usable out.  I learned this from my dad.
Dad has always been a Renaissance man.  If it's broken, he can fix it.  If he needs it, he can design and build it.  If it needs used up, he has ideas.  If it's a problem, he can solve it.  If it needs support he can reinforce it.  If you need convinced, he can persuade you.  If you need help, he's the first to put out his hand to pull you up.  He's a hard worker who knows how to relax, too, and he taught this to my sisters and me over the years by example.
Never ones to shirk from an adventure, he and Mom decided to buy a farm last year.  Now, some might find this odd, as Dad has been somewhat retired for many years now, but to those of us that know and love them both, this was zero surprise.  They bought this farm so that their grandkids would have a place to run free and wild to

explore, and where family and friends could gather often to recharge.  One thing they didn't count on was all of the food growing wild up there.  Every time we find something new, I am *compelled* to preserve it.  Our latest food adventure on the farm has been picking apples.  My sister identified the varietal as Pippins, once grown by Thomas Jefferson.  I identified them as an awesome target for making new fermented things...because *obviously* we couldn't just leave them there.  Instead, we picked gallons (and gallons) of apples and then started figuring out what to do with them.  I happened to have some tasty fermented cranberries hanging around from last winter, so I combined a few recipes and came up with the one below.
Note:  you could make this without the cranberries, and potentially, with fresh cranberries if you stew them with the apples.  I haven't tried that, but I would imagine it would work.  If you want to make the cranberries, go read how, courtesy of Christopher and Kirsten Shockey, here.

6 lbs apples, quartered and cored (unpeeled)
2 T. cinnamon
1 c. water
2 c. fermented cranberries, drained
3/4 c. brown sugar (unless your  apples are super sweet - Pippins are not)
3-4 T. honey (again, unless your apples are super sweet)
good pinch of kosher salt
1 T. culture starter dissolved in 1/4 c. water

Combine the apples, cinnamon, and water in a crockpot.  Cover and cook on high for 12 hours.  Provided the apples are nice and soft at the end of this 12 hours, drain, being sure to reserve *all* the cooking liquid.  Return the apples to the crockpot, along with the cranberries, and puree with an immersion blender.  Add back the cooking liquid a little at a time until you reach a consistency you're happy with.  Taste.  If you need the sugar and/or honey, add them now. Add the salt and stir very well.  Taste again.  Adjust as is necessary with sugar and/or honey until you like the result.  This can be really variable depending upon what kind of apples you use.
Keep the crockpot on high and re-cover.  Cook for 2 hours or so until you are pleased with the viscosity of the butter.

Cool for about an hour.  Meanwhile, dissolve the culture starter in water and set aside.  When the butter is about room temperature, stir in the starter and spoon into jars.  Loosely cap with lids and set on the counter for 3 days.  Along the way, taste.  When you are happy with the developed flavor, put the jars in the refrigerator to stop the ferment.

This makes about 2 1/2 quarts.