The onset of fall always makes me want to cook cozy, warm, spiced foods. Last weekend saw the advent of "Apple Butter 2.0". The apple butter I made last year was tasty - it's been long gone from the pantry - but I must admit, I can tell that even though I cooked it for a little over an hour, I didn't cook it long enough to get that signature smooth texture. This year I was determined to achieve it, even if it meant hours on the stove.
My husband and I drove the 40 or so minutes east to Milford to check out Rousters Apple House for some locally grown apples. Last year's experience at Iron's Fruit Farm was a tad more fulfilling because we were actually able to pick our own apples. At Rousters the fruit is already picked. Even still, the rustic barn that housed all of their apples was homey and smelled enticingly of warm apple fritters.
They had close to ten different varieties, ranging from tart to sweet. I wanted a good tart-to-sweet ratio for the butter, so I settled on half Jonathan (tart, on the left) and half Honeycrisp (sweet, on the right). I also picked up a small carton of Rouster's Apple Cider for the butter - more flavor than water.
Once I got home, I ended up slowly cooking the butter for a little over TWO hours. Now I understand why some people prefer to do this in the crock pot. However, after much spitting and plopping and bubbling, I achieved my goal - smooth, spiced, comforting apple butter.
In addition to apples, I always get a hankering to cook with squash and sweet potatoes in the fall. One of my favorite soup recipes is Moosewood's Gypsy Soup. Onion, celery, garlic, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, bell pepper, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, spiced with paprika, turmeric, basil, cayenne, bay leaf, and a dash of cinnamon - YUM!
All of my ingredients came from our local farmer's markets, and the tomatoes and tomato juice came from my canning efforts earlier this summer. Using canned homegrown tomatoes makes all the difference in a dish, especially soup. I'd take homemade tomato juice over a storebought stock any day.
I paired the soup with a loaf of my homemade kalamata olive bread, and voila, a perfectly cozy meal for two on a brisk fall evening.