Hamptons Epicure: Apple Butter and More Holiday Recipes

On Wednesday, December 14, I gave another of my cooking demos at the Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton. The presentation was billed as “Entertaining Ideas for the Holidays.” But a funny thing happened on my way to Christmas Thanksgiving.

Ever since my son was little, I’ve made a big Thanksgiving spread and this has become my favorite holiday—because I get to cook all day, uninterrupted.

Now my son is all grown up and it’s just me and the husband poking around the house. So when our neighbor, Brett King, invited us over for the Thanksgiving repast, we decided to give that a try.

Best. Thanksgiving. Ever.

Brett cooked TWO turkeys and sent us home with SCADS of leftovers.

A new holiday tradition was born—taking it easy.

So this is the sum total of my ideas for the holidays—entertain yourself with things that you enjoy cooking and that smell terrific. I give a couple of recipes for such things below. Apple butter is easy to make and impresses your friends when you home can it for giving.

Holidays bring carcasses and, with them, the opportunity for making easy stocks.

Both of these recipes require little active cooking time on your part—in fact I suggest cooking both of these in a crockpot overnight and waking up to their many possibilities.

Easy Apple Butter
Yield: about 4 half-pints
6 pounds apples, quartered, pared and cored (about 18 medium)
½ cup apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
Special equipment: 4-quart crockpot
boiling water bath pot, rack, lifter; prepared half-pint canning jars, lids and rings

Place all ingredients in crockpot.

Cover.

Set cooker to High.

Heat for 1 to 2 hours, until rapidly cooking.

Reset cooker to Low.

Remove lid.

Allow to reduce for 8 to 10 hours.

Can be stirred down with a wooden spoon periodically.

Remove crock from cooker.

Ladle hot butter into hot jars, leaving ¼” headspace.

Wipe jar rims with clean, damp paper toweling.

Place lid on jar and adjust band to fingertip tight.

Repeat until all jars are filled. Place jars in boiling-water canner.

Water must cover jars by at least 1 inch. Bring water to a rolling boil. Process 15 minutes. Turn off heat. Let jars cool for at least 5 minutes.

Remove jars from canner; do not retighten bands if loose.

Cool at least 8 hours.

Check seals. Lids should not move up and down when center is pressed.

If any jars are unsealed, consume or refrigerate contents immediately.

Remove rings and wipe off jars.

Label and store jars (without rings).

Keeps for a year.

Note: Never use metal implements (spoons, ladles, etc.) with a crockpot.

Recommended reading for home canning: Ball Blue Book of Preserving

Easy Stock
Yield: about 10 cups
Bones of 2 chickens (or 1 turkey), cracked
1 small yellow onion, unpeeled, quartered
1/2 cup carrot peelings
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 bay leaf
water to fill crock to ½” from top
Special equipment: 4-quart crockpot

Place all ingredients in crockpot.

Cover.

Set cooker to High.

Heat for about1 hour, until visibly cooking.

Remove lid.

Allow to reduce for 8 hours.

Turn off cooker.

Remove crock from cooker, allow contents to cool.

Skim fat from top.

Strain and pour into storage containers.

Keeps in refrigerator about 6 days.

Add kosher salt to taste and use in soups, to cook rice or to moisten leftovers for reheating.

Note: You can roast bones in a 400° oven for about 20 minutes before cracking them, to caramelize and deepen flavors.

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