When cool fall days arrive here in Manhattan, I instinctively begin to miss home. The smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves make me homesick for weekends I spent baking with my mother and nights when my father would slowly mull apple cider on the stove top.
Perhaps what I miss most about being home in Virginia are the people - family and friends. Besides feeling nostalgic for my own family and food, I miss the community.
My parents talk about our neighbors as very close friends - our conversations include updates on all the neighborhood children, pets, and get-togethers. A community that considers each other family and are quick to offer a helping hand.
Meanwhile, as I juggle grocery bags and dig in my purse for the keys, my neighbors walk quickly past without even so much as a hello.
When a fall trip home is not an option, the next-best thing is to step into the kitchen and whip up something that will inevitably transport me, if even just momentarily, to a little corner of Virginia.
A place where I can relax and feel the warmth of my family. A place where I can remove myself briefly from the race pace of the city and just be myself.
This recipe was perfected by Martha, a very dear friend to my parents, and entrusted to me last year. I failed miserably at recreating Martha's delicious apple butter last year, a result of not yet owning a large enough crock-pot.
Although Martha was convinced it was a result of me using apples that were "too beautiful".
But this fall, armed with a 7 quart crock-pot, which consumes all of the available counter space in my kitchen, and reject apples from a local farm, I produced a perfect replica of Martha's recipe.
Most importantly, the apples and spices filled the apartment all day long with their warm, homey fragrance, offering comfort and assurance for my homesickness.
Martha's Apple Butter
recipe courtesy of Martha E. Spencer
makes 5 to 6 pints
active time 15 minutes | inactive time 9 hours
9 pounds apples, assorted varieties
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground all-spice
Peel, core, and dice apples. [Note: I did not peel my apples, which yields a chunkier apple butter] Place apples in a large crock-pot, filling to the rim.
Combine vinegar, sugar, and spices in large mixing bowl. Whisk until fully combined. Pour spice mixture over apples, stirring to evenly coat the apples.
Cover crock-pot and cook on high for 30 to 45 minutes.
Reduce heat to low and cook an additional 8 to 9 hours, stirring occasionally.
Remove lid and increase heat to high. Cook, stirring often, until desired thickness is achieved. [Note: I cooked the apple butter an additional 45 minutes, until there was little liquid remaining]