17 October 2010

17 October - Time to Make Butter

Astronomy:  The Orionid Meteor shower begins today and ends on the 25th.  Peak will be on the 21st and 22nd.  Look south in the predawn hours, however, the full moon will drown out most of it.

Right now, there are two foods which are plentiful and cheap at the farmers markets - cheaper still if you pick your own - apples and onions.  And today is a good time to get started on two of my favorite spreads - apple butter and onion butter.

Most of you have probably come across APPLE BUTTER, either in the grocery store, or a specialty store which sells locally canned goods, or the church fair.  This is a favorite recipe that I use:

Slice into eighths 3-1/2 pounds of cooking apples [as far as I can tell, they are all cooking apples].  Boil 2 quarts of cider for 15 minutes.  Add apple slices and cook until very tender; strain mixture through a sieve [this removes the seeds and peel], and return pulp to the saucepan.  Add 3 cups of sugar, 1 teaspoon of ground allspice, 1 teaspoon of ground cloves, 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  Simmer slowly until thick, stirring frequently (you don't want it to burn).  Pour into jars and seal.

Next, toast your bread, and spread it with the sweet, spicy treat.  Or use it in APPLE BUTTER PIE:

Line a 9-inch pie pan with pastry. [This is a custard-type pie, much like pumpkin pie, and will rise as it bakes, so flute the edges high.] 

In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cup of sugar with 3 tablespoons flour.  Stir in 1/2 cup of apple butter and 2 tablespoons of melted [dairy] butter.  In another bowl, beat 2 eggs with 1-1/2 cups of milk and 1 cup of cream.  Pour it into apple butter mixture, beating as you do so.

Pour the whole mixture into your lined pie pan and sprinkle the top with about 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg.  Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour or until a knife inserted into the pie comes out clean.  Cool pie.
ONION BUTTER is even easier to make, and sweeter than you would expect.  It is good on toast, on crackers, on oatmeal [yes, really!], on vegetables...

No, this isn't Onion 'flavored' butter, with bits of onion or onion juice stirred into dairy butter, although those are good too (especially a plug melting on a newly grilled steak!)  This is a spread made with onions, and nothing but the onions.

Peel 3 to 5 pounds of onions. [I use yellow onions; I can get huge 10 and 15 pound sacks of them for a few dollars - 10 yellow onions are about 3 pounds.  Big, flat, sweet onions are also good.  I've never tried using red onions]

Slice the onions into quarters and place in a large, heavy pot; barely cover the onions with water.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat; cover and simmer for a long time - aka about 24 hours. [No use trying to hurry things along, at least not with this recipe.  Since I don't leave ANYTHING burning when I am not there to watch it, I turn off the stove burner when I go to bed and start it up again the next day.]

Periodically check the mixture - you might need to add a little water.  I give it a stir each time, just to make sure nothing is burning on the bottom.  Once everything is cooked down, you will end up with a pint or two of a brown, lumpy mass; use your favorite method to make it smooth - hand-held or electrical mixer/beater, food processor, whatever. [I stir it and then use a potato masher to break up the lumps.  Arm power may not be Food Channel worthy, but it gets the job done]. 

Some people like to add a little salt to taste at this point.  Once that is done, simmer until all of the excess liquid is gone.  Keep an eye on this, because the liquid can evaporate before you know it, and you will be left with a burned mess.

It is ready to eat, now.  Warm onion butter on toast - heaven!

Once it is cooled sufficiently, I put it in a small crock, a small bowl, even a plastic container, and store it, covered, in the refrigerator.  It doesn't last long.

Of course you can go all fancy and roast the onions with a drizzle of olive oil before dumping them in a pot with melted butter, and using a food processor to make a smooth paste.  That seems like a lot of work to me, but go ahead, be creative.