Saturday, November 17, 2018

In Which the Grinch Makes Delicious Caramel Apple Butter

I've been a bit of a grouch this week- just ask my family.
I'm just tired.

It feels like I'm being pulled in a million directions lately.
School (Which I love- just not the math part).

My family (my everything- but that's a job unto itself).

The house (which needs to be cleaned).

The car (that has been at the  dealership for a month now).

The bills.  The errands.  The laundry.  The yard.
The being a good everything to everyone.

(Side note: Am I the only one that's tired of the world constantly asking more of me?
Instant access from a million sources is sometimes enough to drive me crazy.

I make a purchase on Amazon and have not only the requisite emails coming in from Amazon itself, but also at least two emails from the seller of each individual item I purchased asking me for feedback and inserting themselves in my inbox.  I shop Amazon a lot.  It's more than a bit much.

I visit a website looking for a recipe, suddenly there are popups asking me to join mailing lists and follow on every manner of social media, not to mention the ads blocking my view.

I find half a second to make dinner for my family amongst the chaos of life and when I'm elbow-deep in meatloaf my doorbell rings with yet another salesperson trying to wiggle their way into my life and pocketbook selling children's books or solar panels or magazines.

My phone starts buzzing away in my backpack and I sneak a peak in class, just to make sure it's not my kids' school calling.  Nope, yet another robo-call.

Junk mail, junk calls, junk doorbell rings, junk emails.
I'm tired of the intrusions, to be honest.
When did it become acceptable to flood people's lives with garbage?  Sorry.  Long side note!)

I need a moment (or a day, or a week) to breathe and just be Nora right about now, you know?
I'm actually looking forward to the month between semesters when I can focus on prepping myself for my next math class- 20 years away from high school leaves one with some rather patchy mathematical memory!

Anyway, lately simplicity is the name of the game- the easier the better.
I came across a really interesting recipe for a Caramel Apple Butter the other day that is cooked in a crockpot and I decided that it sounded like a perfect mostly-hands-off way to make a bunch of Christmas presents for all of those amazing people in our lives that we want to thank in small and inexpensive ways.

Yes, I had to take the time to peel the apples.
Yes, I also did it sitting at my coffee table while watching a TV show in Spanish I was required to watch for school- yay for multitasking!
(Although it just now struck me that I could have saved myself some energy and used my Allrecipes Apple Peeler- next time!)

This recipe really is as simple as throwing a bunch of apples and seasonings in a crockpot and letting it go until it's delicious apple mush.  The fun thing about this variation is that it uses caramels.
Yep, caramel candies!

Caramels are creamy, sweet, a little salty- my husband honestly closed his eyes smiled with delight when he bit into a warm biscuit slathered with this goodness and immediately started plotting to which of his coworkers he would gift this batch.

I'll definitely be keeping this recipe handy!

In the meantime, in spite of my Grinch-iness lately, I'm so excited about the holidays this year.
I'm looking forward to cooking and watching the Macy's parade in our PJ's, stuffing ourselves silly, and watching Twilight Zone together in a tryptophan-assisted sleepy state next week.

I'm looking forward to trimming the tree with familiar ornaments that tell the story of our lives and settling in to watch White Christmas with gingersnaps.

I'm looking forward to chilly nights spent driving around in pj's looking at lights with my kiddos.

I'm looking forward to lighting Advent candles with my family and more than anything, just taking a step back from the insanity of life and appreciating all of the amazing things in my life that make it crazy.

6 lbs apples (peeled, cored, and cut into small cubes - I used a mix of Granny Smith & Honeycrisp)
2 C brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 (11 oz) packages individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped

1. Combine apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and cloves in a slow cooker.

2. Cook on High until apples are tender enough to easily mash with a fork, 3 to 5 hours. Puree apple mixture with an immersion blender until smooth.
3. Microwave unwrapped caramels in a microwave-safe dish until melted, about 30 seconds. Add to slow cooker and cook for 1 to 2 hours.
4. Inspect ten 8-ounce jars for cracks and rings for rust, discarding any defective ones. Immerse in simmering water for at least 5 minutes. Wash new, unused lids and rings in warm soapy water.
5. Pack apple butter into the hot, sterilized jars, filling the jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Run a knife or a thin spatula around the insides of the jars after they have been filled to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any residue. Top with lids, and screw on rings.
6. Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil and lower jars 2 inches apart into the boiling water using a holder. Pour in more boiling water to cover jars by at least 1 inch. Bring to a rolling boil, cover, and process for 10 minutes.
7. Remove the jars from the stockpot and let rest, several inches apart, for 12 to 24 hours. Press the center of each lid with a finger to ensure the lid does not move up or down. Remove the rings for storage and store in a cool, dark area.

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