I love this season - squash and greens and apples are just ripening, summer dust gives way to the crisper colors of fall, and the air seems somehow easier to breathe. This Miles' first autumn (isn't that crazy to think? He's never seen pumpkins or leaf piles before!) and we thought a trip to the orchard to go apple picking would be a great way to introduce him to the season. He seemed to agree heartily, and spent the trip crawling around under the trees eating grass and chasing fallen apples. He has perfected the hands-free eating thing - he crawls up to an apple on the ground (or in Nonna's bag), plants his hands on either side of it, sticks his butt in the air and uses his face to simultaneously hold it down and gnaw at it with his four teeth.
Nom nom nom.
Apples are a couple weeks early this year because of our early spring and hot summer, so even though it was only the second weekend in September, Macs and Cortlands were ripe. We picked 20 lbs of apples and then spent an embarrassingly long time doing the "baby's first apple picking" thing. Oh, the shamelessness of parenthood. It's clear Miles is a first baby, because he has already learned that the click of a shutter means "people are going to coo and smile at me, yay!"
Once we got our apples home, though, the fun really started. Lydia came over the next day for a marathon canning session and we set to work sterilizing jars, chopping fruit and simultaneously wrangling the kids. We made plum jam and apple butter. Here's our quick method for making awesome apple butter:
1. Chop 12-15 lbs of apples. If you have a food mill or chinoise strainer you can leave the skins on.
2. Make applesauce by cooking the apples down with a teeny bit of water until they're nice and soft (usually 20-30 minutes).
3. Push the sauce through your mill or strainer, or mash with a potato masher until smooth.
4. Dump the applesauce and a cup or two (or 3 if you like it sweet) of sugar into your crock pot with a big squeeze of lemon juice, some cinnamon and ground cloves. Cook it on low overnight.
5. To can, ladle hot butter into hot jars, leave 1/2 inch headspace and process 10 minutes.