I’ll start today with some notes on gratitude, since it’s Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend.
Last night, I was laying in bed like a human yin-yang symbol, my body one giant ‘S.’ My 4-month old daughter was nestled into my chest, a burrow between my curled up knees and my outstretched arms, and my dog had curled up behind me, tucked into the back of my bent knees. It was a perfect moment. The house was warm and quiet, my two girls were snoozing and snuggling happily.
4 hours prior, this scene looked a lot different. My daughter, Evangeline, battling her first cold virus, refused to nap. She refused to eat. In fact, she refused to do anything but cry- upset at her lack of eating and sleeping, yet unable or unwilling to simply eat and sleep. Fun times, right?
My dog, Hannah, stared at me with equal parts sadness and distain. First, the screaming creature stole all of my attention and now it wasn’t even going to let her nap? “Why have you brought this small human into our lives, mum? This is your fault.”
By the time Colin got home from work, Evie had settled and Hannah had crashed in front of the fireplace. Sure. Do that. Be perfect as soon as Dad gets home and I actually have help.
Still, in the warm and the quiet and the darkness, the chaos of the day melts away and you can take stock. Gratitude. Happiness.
I am thankful to have such a sweet, funny, curious little baby. I am thankful to have such a smart, kind-hearted, snuggly dog. I am thankful to be sharing parenthood with my husband, who is so into being a father and a supportive partner, but still grabs my butt all the time.
I am also thankful to live in such a beautiful part of the world, with heaps of green space and trees. When Evie is having a tough day, walking outside in the forested areas around my house is one of the only things that will reliably calm her.
These walks are especially fun at this time of year since many of those surrounding trees just happen to be… apple trees. Yellow apples, red apples, green apples with red streaks. The earth smells wet and green but also sharply alcoholic from the fermenting fruit that wasn’t foraged in time.
I have no idea what kind of apples they all are, but I know they are edible and free for the scrumping. These won’t win any beauty contests, but they’re forage-able and free soooo…
The other day, I came across a crabapple tree that no one had touched yet. Since fresh crabapples are largely too astringent to be eaten raw, most of my neighbours had skipped gathering from that particular tree, now heavy with fruit. Thankfully, I love crabapples and I knew just what to do with them.
Two easy recipes, which I make every year: a tart, spiced, warming crabapple chutney- excellent year-round for cheese plates, boboties, sandwiches or served atop grilled meats (especially pork and turkey!)- and a sweet, icy liqueur- liquid gold that tastes like gourmet, grown up Jolly Ranchers.
A few recipe notes- you will notice I do not remove the seeds of the crabapples for either recipe. In the liqueur, the solids are strained out, but the seeds do remain in the finished chutney. While crabapple seeds (and, indeed, all apple seeds) are not entirely ‘edible,’ they will not harm you unless eaten in truly massive quantities and, given that you won’t be eating the entire batch of chutney with a spoon in one afternoon… it’s easier to just leave the seeds in. Up to you, though. I do not notice them being distracting in the finished product myself, either in texture or flavour.
Secondly, I use up to 2 cups of simple syrup for the liqueur, but have often used much less. Start with about half a cup or a cup and then increase to suit your tastes. Depending on how sweet the crabapples you are using are, and how long you have steeped the mixture, you may find one cup is sufficient. Garnishing with fresh rosemary gives the liqueur a pine-like aroma, which I find really beautiful at this time of year, but for something a little fresher or sunnier, frozen blackberries also make a superb garnish.
|Crabapple Two Ways: Slow Cooker Chutney & Icy Liqueur|| |
- Slow Cooker Crabapple Chutney:
- 3 lbs. fresh crabapples, stems removed, fruit halved (skin left on- seed removal optional)
- 1 cup fresh cranberries (or ½ cup dried)
- 1 cup raisins or sultanas
- 2 medium yellow onions, diced
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 2 cups Demerara sugar
- 1½ cups apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, coarsely chopped (1/4 tsp dried, ground sage)
- 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- 2 large navel oranges, juice and zest
- Crabapple Liqueur:
- 4 cups crab apples (~1.5 lbs.), halved
- 1 L vodka
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- For the chutney: Add all ingredients except the orange juice and zest, to the slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Stir well, breaking up any large chunks. If your chutney appears a bit watery, continue to cook for 1-2 hours with the lid off. Finish with orange juice and zest and adjust seasoning to taste, if needed.
- To jar chutney: Wash and sterilize your canning jars. Bring a small saucepan to a low boil on your stovetop and add the jar lids (not the screw rims, just the flat tops). Fill a jar with hot chutney, leaving ¼ inch of space at the top. Wipe the edge of the jar down with a clean, moist cloth then, using tongs, pull a sterilized lid from the boiling water and place it on top of the filled jar. Screw the rim over the top. Repeat with remaining jars until all the chutney is canned. The jar lids should 'pop' down over the next few hours, indicating they have been properly sealed. If any do not 'pop' I recommend processing again, or storing in the fridge to eat first.
- For the liqueur: Place halves crabapples in a large, clean jar. Top with vodka, so that all the crabapples are covered and limited space is left open. Close jar securely and store in a cool, dry place for 2-3 weeks (longer for a stronger flavour). Strain the liquid using some folded cheesecloth. In a small saucepan, simmer sugar and water together until completely dissolved. Let cool. Add simple syrup to liqueur, starting with one cup, and increasing it slowly to suit your tastes. Store in a clean, glass bottle- furthermore, I like to store mine in the freezer! To serve, pour chilled liqueur into a martini glass (or at room temperature, into a short tumbler with ice) and garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.