Tag Archives: Slow Food

Stir up (or cook down) some Colonial Apple Butter

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In a world of wonderful jams and butters, apple butter might just be the ultimate slow food. Comprised of just a few natural ingredients, and no sugar, the best apple butter cooks most of the day over a low flame, so that the resulting mixture is wonderfully dense and has a rich, caramel-y taste. I’d been wanting to get in touch with my inner Colonial cook and make some, when a friend happened to bring over a bounty of Fuji apples from her backyard tree, and then another friend further inspired me by making amazing dried apples from her tree. (Lucky me!)

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Apples were indeed plentiful in Colonial America. Alice Morse Earle’s book, Home Life in Colonial America, lists such dishes as apple-slump (baked apples under a cake topping), apple-crowdy (a turnover-like dessert), and something called apple-mose, along with various types of pies. The book quotes a Swedish parson writing home about the Delaware settlement in 1758:

Apple-pie is used throughout the whole year, and when fresh apples are no longer to be had, dried ones are used. It is the evening meal of children. House-pie .. is made of apples neither peeled nor freed from their cores, and its crust is not broken if a wagon wheel goes over it.

I washed the Fuji apples, appreciating their pretty shapes and colors. In Colonial country homes, it was not uncommon to hold an apple-paring, in which friends and neighbors came to help peel the crop of apples for winter’s dried apples, applesauce and apple butter. The ingredients for apple butter were put into large brass kettles, which were then hung in big, open fireplaces. The finished apple butter would be stored in barrels in the house’s basement. Quince and pear butters were made as well.

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My apple butter is extremely easy to make, requiring only the ingredients you see above:

8 cups apples (a cup is approx. 2 small apples)

2 1/2 cups apple cider

1 Tbsp. honey

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. cloves

This recipe yields 2 jars of apple butter and can easily be doubled or tripled. I arrived at it through a combination of various vintage, Amish, and canning books, along with some trial and error.

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1. Wash, peel and chop the apples into small pieces.

2. Place the apples into a large pot and cover with the cider.

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3. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer.

4. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

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5. Simmer on low heat, uncovered for 6 or more hours, or until the mixture cooks down to a paste. You may opt for occasional periods of slightly higher heat, if you find that your mixture remains too watery or if you want to caramelize some of the apples at the bottom of the pot.

This is the “inner Colonial” part — the long, slow cooking process and the fantastic way your house will smell and feel as you do it.

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6. Using a wide-mouth funnel, ladle the mixture into jars that have been prepared for canning. (I boil them for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.)

7. Seal the jars and boil them again, for 10 minutes. Let them sit for a day. (If you follow strict canning guidelines, you can store your apple butter for the future. If you do not, then you’ll want to eat the apple butter within a couple of weeks and store it in the refrigerator.) Please refer to the USDA canning guidelines, downloadable Guide 1, for more information on proper home canning.

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Preserves and butters of all kinds make wonderful gifts and spreads, especially one like this, in which there is barely anything to get in the way of the wonderful, fresh, age-old Fall apple taste. Try apple butter on toast or crackers, with cheese, poultry, or even other fruit.

The colonial kitchen above is located at the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT. If you are able to get to this museum, I highly recommend it. It’s like no other — approximately 40 buildings on beautiful grounds house collections of folk art, paintings, quilts, dolls, design, and entire detailed re-creations of such staples of the past as apothecaries, blacksmiths, printing shops, train stations, one-room schoolhouses, and homes of many eras. Look for an upcoming post that details more about the one-of-a-kind Shelburne Museum.

In the meantime, enjoy your butter and fall!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

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Mushroom Hunting in Norway

I love this video, which Kari Svenneby of Toronto, Canada’s Active Kids Club posted on the Children & Nature Network forum. Kari is an enthusiastic mushroom forager, harvester and cook, in addition to pioneering a very active outdoor play group and web resource for others. Her and her family’s joy in nature is evident in this beautiful video. Thanks for sharing, Kari!

Top 10 Vegetables for Home Gardeners

Tomatoes top the National Gardening Association‘s list of the Top 10 most popular vegetables grown by home gardeners. A whopping 86% of gardeners said they planned to grow tomatoes, when surveyed.

Here are the Top Ten and the percentages of people who said they planned to grow them:

1. Tomatoes (86%)
2. Cucumbers (47%)
3. Sweet peppers (46%)
4. Beans (39%)
5. Carrots (34%)
6. Summer squash (32%)
7. Onions (32%)
8. Hot peppers (31%)
9. Lettuce (28%)
10. Peas (24%)

On the bottom of the list? The lowly Rutabaga only had 1% of gardeners’ support.

Looking for other Gardening lists? See these for ideas about:

Top 10 Heirloom Vegetables to Try

Top 10 Vegetables for the Urban Garden

10 Shade-Loving Vegetables

Once you’ve been inspired to plant, you may want to check out my earlier post, How to Get Growing if You’re a Total Beginner. Tomato season may be winding down (though hope remains for my Oregon Spring cherry tomatoes and a relatively warm fall), so the Gardening Association suggests planting fragrant fall annuals such as snapdragon, stock (below), and sweet alyssum.

Photos: Jean-noël Lafargue (top), Susan Sachs Lipman

Poster: University of N. Texas Libraries

Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market

We are blessed in the San Francisco Bay Area to have an abundance of farmer’s markets, many of which operate year-round. The thrice-weekly farmer’s market at the San Francisco Ferry Building provides a multiple blessing, with its huge array of fresh, local foods, and the possible added fun of a ferry ride across the bay, the Ferry Building shops, and the energy of city shoppers bustling through a farmer’s market. Here are some snaps from a recent visit:

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Happy Bastille Day: Stir up Some Ratatouille

Are you wondering how to use your abundance of mid-summer tomatoes and zucchini, and celebrate Bastille Day at the same time?

One word: Ratatouille.

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This tasty, colorful melange never fails to summon summer, while providing a few helpings of vegetables or a fool-proof side-dish that works with fish, chicken, lamb, noodles, and more. Ever since I first lived on my own in college, it has been the rare period when I haven’t made some.

Food historians generally date ratatouille to 18th century France, and to the area of Provence, and the town of Nice, in particular. Its name hails from the French verb, touiller, which means “to stir, mix, or toss”.

My own ratatouille has changed a lot since the days when I cut cubes of zucchini and eggplant and set them to boil in a pot of canned tomatoes. It’s as if the recipe itself has both mellowed and allowed for more complication, just as a good pot of ingredients, over time, coalesces into an especially flavorful whole. Diehard ratatouille purists may insist on sautéing each ingredient separately, but here you get the same effect, while also saving a little time.

4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, pressed
3 bell peppers, chopped (2-3 colors)
1 large eggplant, chopped
2 medium zucchini, chopped
2 summer squash, chopped
20 or so olive halves
2 14 oz. cans tomato chunks, or equivalent fresh tomatoes
2-4 tsps. each oregano and thyme
Feta or parmesan cheese, optional

Coat eggplant pieces in 2 Tbsp. oil and bake in a baking dish, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, until soft.

Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in heavy skillet over medium high heat.

Add onions and sauté, turning occasionally, just until golden.

Add pressed garlic and sauté.

Mix in peppers, cooked eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, and olive halves.

Sauté whole for 10-15 minutes.

Add tomato chunks and spices to just boiling. Reduce heat to medium and cook for another 5-10 minutes.

Serves 4-6 as a main course. The recipe can easily be halved or doubled. Serve plain, hot or cold, top with feta or a dry Italian cheese like parmesan, or spoon over pasta.

Photo: wikibooks.org

A Slow Classic Reprint, first run 7/14/09

Slow News: New White House Programs Support Children’s Nutrition & Play

Exciting news for those who care about children’s health and nutrition and the movement to get kids outside to play — The Obama Administration has revealed two important new programs that address children’s health and well-being: President Obama’s “America’s Great Outdoors” Initiative, which he signed Friday, April 16, and First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to eradicate childhood obesity.

I wrote about both of these on the Children & Nature Network blog. Here is President Obama signing the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative:

The White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors, at which the signing took place, offered an exciting day of speeches and panel discussions. These revealed that the current administration cares deeply about the environment and the generation of children who are set to inherit American lands, as well as their stewardship. Said President Obama:

When we see America’s land, we understand what an incredible bounty that we have been given.  And it’s our obligation to make sure that the next generation enjoys that same bounty.

We’ll help families spend more time outdoors, building on what the First Lady has done through the “Let’s Move” initiative to encourage young people to hike and bike and get outside more often.

There was plenty of inspiration offered by many speakers, including this from Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Lisa Jackson:

Our open spaces have inspired our artists and encouraged our pioneers.

It was thrilling to me to listen along at home and hear our land and open spaces being revered by such a powerful group that was convened for the day at the White House, for the purpose of promoting nature for its beauty and value to people of all ages. My “play-by-play” coverage of the conference is here.

The other great recent White House development is Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and its April 9 Childhood Obesity Summit, which I was able to watch by live podcast. The Summit was an extremely encouraging event. The “Let’s Move” Campaign centers around the availability of healthy food, in schools and all neighborhoods, information and resources for parents, and physical activity.

Michelle Obama has noted that her work in the White House vegetable garden, in addition to her own family’s experiences trying to work good nutrition and health into a busy lifestyle, encouraged her to begin her campaign.

I was very cheered that outdoor play was revealed as an important part of the campaign and the efforts of high-level government officials.

Here’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, from his opening remarks:

If you want our students to be much more successful academically, they have to be active.

He called for “more well-rounded educations for children” and those, he noted, include P.E. and recess. This is a sea change away from the culture of academic pressure and achievement that has permeated the American school system over the recent past.

According to Interior Secretary Salazar:

We need to get our young people and our society as a whole more connected to the outdoors than they have been.

A whole “breakout” discussion then centered about physical activity and play, which is one of the platforms of the “Let’s Move” campaign. That session included discussions of such positive things as ways to deal with parental fear about outdoor play, increased access to natural spaces in suburban and urban settings, location of parks near schools and homes, safe routes to schools and parks, available transportation to green spaces, access to activities beyond organized sports, resources for parents, and a culture of increased walking instead of driving for short distances.

All of these issues concerning green spaces and communities, walking, play, and access to fresh, healthy food, are connected to the Slow Movement.

Again, this was at the White House.

My blog post about the Childhood Obesity Summit is here.

Complete video coverage of the Summit is available on the White House site. (From the front page of the Video section, search for “Obesity Summit”.)

Photos: The White House

Slow News Day: Are the French Losing their Cheese Edge?

While some American farmers are just discovering the joys and products of old-fashioned, methodical cheesemaking — employing ones own cows, sheep and goats — some in France are rigthfully worried that that country is losing its traditional methods, along with some of its long-time producers. One family that has been making cheese since Charlemagne’s 9th century rule, is in its last generation of cheesemakers.

Blame increasing globalization of both palate and distribution. Near-ubiquitous use of pasteurization has also moved the French away from unique raw-milk cheeses and toward blander packaged fare. As a result, the very people who coined the term terroir (meaning that the food reflects the region in which it was produced, say as a result of specific grass munched by local cows) are in danger of losing their most unique geographically-based cheeses.

Why should we care? If you love cheese, of course, you likely treasure the small-batch, hand-made varieties from the farmer’s own hands and farm. They’re more special and rare; they taste more distinct, reflecting the land and the care — sometimes two years of processing and storing — that went into them. This trend extends beyond cheese, of course, and represents a loss of long-time tradition and craftsmanship as well as a diminishment in the appreciation of a fine product, which leads to the demise of that product itself. Remember when cars were more stylish? Clothing better made?

This fine article explains the cheese situation in more depth.

The only thing one can do on this (or any) side of the pond? Gather up a good French cheese, like the Comte Les Trois Comptois (a nutty, floral raw milk gruyere), a sturdy baguette, and a bottle of wine, and do your part to keep unique, terroir French cheeses alive.

Photos: Keith Weller, Susan Sachs Lipman