Tuesday, 9 November 2010

09 November--Apples!

Autumn in the United Kingdom and in the American Midwest is Apple Season!  I've just been given my 3rd lot of apples today (9th November).  Living in different countries broadens the palate as well as the mind.  So, while there is the comfort of the familiar, there is sufficient difference to peak the curiosity.  For example, as a girl growing up in Indiana, I ate my share of Lodi, Jonathan, Jonagold, Winesap and Breaburn apples.  The best Red Delicious apples came from Washington state.  And my mom's favourite apple was a Yellow Delicious--grown in Indiana and Washington state.

     My first experience of Autumn in England was in 1983, when I came to Dagenham to visit a pen-pal.  Arriving on 18th September, I arrived in England as the apple harvest was just beginning.  It was the first time I'd ever heard of a Bramley apple, or a Pippin, a Maiden of Kent.   The first year of my marriage--2003--I discovered Pink Lady apples--as my sister-in-law had a Pink Lady tree in her back garden in Kent. 

      The terrain and landscape of southern Indiana looks like the rolling hills of England, and Northern Ireland.  The testament of the British settlers in Southern Indiana and Kentucky is witnessed by the existence of common apple varieties:  Cox apples, Granny Smith's, Braeburn, and Early Transparent.  
     Cider making is a common practice in the American Midwest as well as here in the United Kingdom.  However, in the Midwest, you could get unfermented, sweet cider.  Dad would buy a couple of bags of apples and a half-gallon jug of cider.  The sweet, cloudy apple juice was wonderful to drink ice cold accompanied by a bowl of salty popcorn.  

     With the apple season came ways of cooking and preserving.  In our home we cooked apples and had them in the morning with baking-soda biscuits, bacon and eggs.  We ate applesauce with pork chops for dinner.  Apples were cored and sliced, put into heavy-duty freezer bags and stored in the freezer.  It wasn't just Mom who took care of preserving;  it was a family project.  My dad didn't make biscuits, but he made great apple sauce, apple butter and helped with the peeling, coreing and canning. 

     Grandpa Hildebrand stood over six-foot tall, weighed near 300 pounds.  He was of German descent, a pronounced nose, and deep brown eyes that sparkled with both mischief and kindness.  His favourite way to eat a piece of apple pie was warm, with a piece of sharp cheddar cheese half-melted on top.  I liked that too.  However, depending on my mood I might prefer vanilla ice cream.  
    Another favourite thing to eat in the autumn is apple butter.  British people look at me askance when I say applebutter.  If it isn't dairy, how can it be butter?  So, I've had to resort to calling it jam, or perserve for lack of a better discription.  This is a great way to prepare for winter and make sure the bushel or two of apples you have don't rot before they get eaten.  Basically, apple butter is a way of slow cooking apples with lots of sugar that caramelizes.  You also need an acid to balance the sweetness--some sort of vinegar.  

Basically, before you make the apple butter, you need to peel, core and cook the apples down to applesauce.  If you don't want to peel and core, just cut up the apples, cook down and then run them through a collander to get rid of peel, cores and seeds  

Here's my recipe:

Apple Butter 
4 cups (32 ounces) applesauce
2.5 cups packed brown sugar
.25 (1/4) cup cider vinegar
.25 (1/4) cup red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1) Preheat overn to 350 F/175 C/Gas mark 4.
2) Line a 2 quart casserole dish or large roasting pan with aluminium foil.  This makes for easier clean-up.
3) In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.  Pour into baking dish.
4) Bake uncovered for 2.5 to 3 hours or until mixture is very thick.  Stir about every half-an-hour to 45 minutes.  
5) If storing in glass jars, place jars and lids in boiling hot water for at least five minutes before pouring in the applebutter.  Fill jars to rim, place re-sealable lids on jar and then set aside.  As the applebutter and jar cool, this creates a vacuum that seals the lid.
--If storing in the freezer, allow the apple butter to cool before placing in freezable storage containers.

This is what I did the end of October with a big bag of apples that was given to me.  A good friend of mine saved honey jars for me.  The batch resulted in six and a half jars.  The open  half-filled jar is in the fridge.  
     My dad used to add red hot cinnamon candy to the apple-butter.  It was great!  The applebutter came out all red instead of almost brown.  Once again I can read a quizzical expression on the faces of my British friends.  What are Red Hots?  Little round cinnamon candies that are sweet and hot at the same time.  And here is a website that you might find helpful:  http://www.acandystore.com/red-hots-theatre-boxes-12ct.html

Another great apple season favourite is applesauce cake.  Here is one of my personal perferences.
Applesauce Cake 
Wet Ingredients:  4 Eggs
3 cups applesauce
1.5 (1 1/2) cups cooking oil

Dry Ingredients:  3 cups sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powders
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Optional Ingredients:  1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped nuts

1) Preheat oven to 350*F/175*C/Gas Mark 4.
2) Grease and flour two 9" cake tins/ 9"x 13" cake dish.  This is a large recipe--so you may need a small pan for extra batter.  You can also use parchment paper to line the bottom if you are going to do a layer cake.
3)  In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg,  and ground clove.
4)  In another large bowl, place the applesauce.  
4) Add one egg and stir well.  Repeat until all four eggs are thoroughly mixed in.
5) Now add in the sugar at one go, and mix well.  
6)  Into the wet ingredients, add the flour a little at a time, mixing well.  Once this mixture is complete combined, add the raisins and/or nuts as desired.
7) Pour batter into the cake tins/baking dish.  Place in oven and bake for about 50 minutes.  Check it for doneness by inserting a tin bladed knife or toothpick into the center.  If it comes out clean, it is done.  If not done at 50 minutes, leave in the oven until  done--checking every five minutes.  

Remove from oven.  You can serve this with a cream cheese icing, ice cream, toffee sauce, custard or eat by itself!  I hope you enjoy it.

If you are stuck for other things to do with apples, check out this website--I personally have it bookmarked.  http://allrecipes.com/

Now all I have to do is decide what to do with this lot of apples---hmmmm, apple pie?  Apple strudel?  Dutch apple pie?  Apple muffins?  Apple crumble?  Cooked in porridge oats?  So many options.... 

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith

2nd November--but only posted on the 9th

I love the view from my office/studio window.  The tree outside is full of little red berries the birds love to come and feed on.  They fly onto the branches and then off so quickly that I never have time to grab my camera and take a few photos.  A pair of black-and-white magpies are two of the regulars "fly-ins." 

     Thanksgiving is coming quickly--just days away.  I have much to be thankful for this year.  Most especially I deeply appreciate God's love gift to me in the form of my patient, kind, generous and caring husband--My Midnight Man.  

      During this past year I have been struggling with my health.  I am awaiting notification of an appointment with a Rheumatologist to explore the condition of ME (Myalgic encephalomyelitis) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  Some days I have sufficient energy to do dishes or a couple of loads of laundry.  Other days I simply sleep.  It is frustrating when I want to make Christmas gifts, write more blogs, work on some other writing projects and get my paint box out.  I have days when I have lots of energy for three, maybe four hours, and then I'm exhausted.  I have to plan what days to rest and what days to take advantage of my energy.
     However, I'd really like to report on the things that have happend on my okay/good days.  

      As you can see by the date on the photo, I finished the sweater for my friend's "furbaby".  I was well pleased that I finished it with over a week to spare before my friend went home.  However, I was a bit anxious to know whether all my mathematical calculations had been accurate and if it would fit.  It was a matter of waiting until my Friend got home and dressed Shotzi in it.  

Another thing I learned was that this yarn handles better using a stockingette stitch instead of the garter stitch.  I thought I'd never want to work with this crazy stuff again.  But, I still have a enough to make another jumper for Shotzi.  And once I saw the result, I'm thinking of giving it another go.  As you can see, I did get "the maths" right!--much to my delight.
      On Tuesday, 5th October the weather was delightful and my guest and I went to Windsor Castle to see the changing of the guard.  We learned that you can recognise which regiment is on duty by looking at how the buttons are sewn in groupings on their red tunics (jackets):  
Grenadier regiment has a single button;  
Coldstream (both English) have sets of two buttons; 
Scots have sets of three buttons, 
Irish have sets of four buttons and 
the Welsh Guard have sets of five buttons.  
The day we went the Scots Regiment were on duty.  To get a better idea, check out the website:http://www.changing-the-guard.com/regiments.html   
     After wearing ourselves out standing, we made our way to Esquires Coffee House on the High Street.  We had a lot of time to just sit and talk about life and love.  We laughed, drank lots of coffee (four cups between us).  Esquires offers a loyalty card.  Buy nine cups and get the 10th free.  We were about half way there! http://www.esquirescoffee.co.uk/ 

We also enjoyed watching the folk walk by, as there had been an official awards ceremony at the Castle.  People who have made a significant contribution to the United Kingdom were recognised by being awarded either an OBE--Officer of the British Empire--MBE--Member of the British Empire--or a CBE--Commander of the British Empire.  So it was high-hats, high-heels, and haberdashery.  

      The other interesting folk to watch were the folk on holiday.  They were easy to spot, as they had knap-sacks, back-packs, and cameras.  From our perch by the coffee shop, we could see the double-decker tourist bus stop about two blocks away from us.    

One of the money saving measures I take is to simply let my hair grow until I have been blessed with an unexpected financial gift.  So my hair was getting quite long--longer than John likes.   As a "Thank You" for the hospitality we provided, I was blessed with a trip to the beauty shop for a haircut.  Notice the curly bangs/fringe?  That is all natural.  It seems like the older I get, the more curly my hair gets!  What a kick!  Natasha, the hair stylist, used a round brush and blow dryer after she cut it.  If I leave my hair, it just curls!  I love it!

      On 22nd October the phone rang.  I would have preferred to ignore it, as I didn't feel good.  But My Midnight Man was out, and I thought he might be calling me.  Instead, it was John's best friend, Mark.  Mark wanted to know if we had plans for the evening, as it was John's birthday.  The result was being invited out to dinner with Mark and his wife, Sherie.  http://www.tobycarvery.co.uk/  I do recommend it for a hot, roast dinner.   

      We've had the heating on a few times now, on those windy, rainy, grey days.  The sun is setting by 4:45 in the evenings now and I shall soon want to start lighting candles.  The autumn here in England has been beautiful, full of golden light in the evenings, and those reds, oranges yellows that are revealed when the chlorophyll in the trees shuts down and seeps away.  It is nature's way of preparing the trees for winter.  I suppose it is the time of the year that I am most inspired.  
     I hope that all of you are inspired by the changing seasons.  For those in the southern hemisphere, here comes summer!  My prayer is that each of you find strength, wisdom and joy for each day!  

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith.