Apple Butter

When I was eight and my little sister was three, my family drove from our home in Brooklyn, New York to my aunt and uncle’s house in Montana. While I’m certain travelling 2500 miles with two young children was difficult for our parents (we spilled apple juice in every road-side restaurant from New Jersey to North Dakota), the trip was unforgettable. We visited three of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s homes, saw Mount Rushmore and climbed around the Badlands. In Montana, my cousin and I “sewed” dresses for our American Girls and were allowed to walk to the neighborhood playground all by ourselves. I lay awake long after my 9 o’clock bedtime – amazed that, this far from home, the sun never seemed to set.

On a trip where I got to ride in a covered wagon and wander the banks of Plum Creek, I wouldn’t have expected to find the most magic in a small restaurant less than halfway out from Brooklyn.

My mom grew up in a small town outside of Cleveland. Both of her parents died before either my sister or I were born, and while we’ve always been close to her family (we were driving out to Montana to visit her brother’s family), we never spent much time in Ohio growing up. While it has always been easy to imagine my dad’s childhood, growing up in Chelsea in the same apartment my grandparents still live in, my mother’s youth was always a greater mystery. Some Ohio traditions were easily transplanted to Brooklyn – we still make her family’s gingerbread recipe every year (and every year I am put to shame by my cousins’ icing designs). But her childhood, replete with ice cream socials and the prize-winning goats next door, was always difficult to imagine.

On the second or third day of our trip, we stopped in my mom’s hometown. We drove past her childhood home (goats long gone by then) and visited our first soda fountain. That night, we went to a small restaurant in town that had been open since my mother was a girl. While never a picky eater, at eight I wasn’t a particularly discerning one either.  For most of the trip, I subsisted happily on the offers from kids’ menus that never varied from state to state.

In truth, I remember very little about that magical dinner in Ohio. I know it was fancy, by my eight-year-old standards, and so I likely ordered a Shirley Temple. And I know that, as we waited for our dinners, our waiter brought out a basket of warm bread and apple butter. I’d never heard of apple butter, and tended to avoid anything apple-like since very scientifically diagnosing myself as allergic at age 6. Still, it was only the raw ones that bothered me, and this apple butter smelled so very, very good.

My mother spread some on a fresh roll, telling my sister and me that this restaurant had been serving apple butter since she was our age. And with that first bite (spicy and sweet and so smooth!) I suddenly felt that much closer to my mom’s childhood.

Incidentally, apple butter on a low carb base (like multigrain pop cakes, a personal favorite in this house) makes for a great diabetic-friendly snack, coming in at about 10 grams of carbs.

Apple Butter

Ingredients – Makes about 4.5 cups (I preserved 4 cups in mason jars and kept the rest in a jar in the fridge for immediate use)

6 lbs mixed cooking apples (I used a mixture of Fuji, Courtland and Granny Smiths)

1.5 cu. apple cider

3 cu. sugar

3 tbs lemon juice

2 cinnamon sticks & 5-10 whole cloves, tied together in cheesecloth (star anise could also be quite nice)

1/3 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Note: The basic idea here is to make a sweet, spicy applesauce and let it cook down for a nice long time. This is a good project for a slow Sunday.

1. Peel and core your apples, cutting them into quarters, and drop them in a big ol’ pot. Add the apple cider and bring it to a simmer, covered, over medium heat. Cook for about half an hour, until the apples are soft and tender. Remove from the heat.

2. This step is where you will be gleefully smug if you’ve had the foresight to invest in an immersion blender. If you have, cheerfully blend your apples right there in the pot until the mixture is completely smooth. If you haven’t, don’t despair! Just transfer the applesauce to a blender, pureeing in batches (it’ll probably take 3-4 turns) until all of your apples are smooth. Consider adding an immersion blender to your Christmas list.

3. Once the applesauce has been pureed and is back (or still) in its pot, bring the mixture back up to a simmer on medium-low. Add in the sugar, spice packet tied up in cheesecloth, and nutmeg, and stir to combine. Let the mixture simmer, uncovered, for about two hours, or until it is silky smooth and amber to dark brown. Stir it often to make sure it doesn’t burn.

4. If you’ll be eating your apple butter immediately, remove from the stove, let cool, and place in a jar in your fridge. It will last for between 2 weeks and a month. If you’ll be preserving the butter, proceed to step 5.

5. About half an hour before your butter will be done, wash 2 pint-sized mason jars in hot, soapy water. Then bring the jars to a boil in a large pot (make sure to put something – I use a metal steamer – in between the jars and the bottom of the pot, so they don’t get too hot) and let them boil for ten minutes. Do the same thing with the jars’ lids. Leave these in the hot water if your apple butter isn’t done yet.

6. When the apple butter is done, spoon it into the jars until there’s about a half inch between the butter and the top of the jar. Place the lids on and screw on the ring.

7. Lower the jars back into a large pot of boiling water (with the metal steamer still in there!), so that there is at least an inch of water above the lid of the jars. Boil for 10 minutes (15 minutes if you’re at an altitude of more than 6000 ft). Remove the jars from the boiling water using tongs and allow to cool on a cooling rack. You can tell the jars have been properly processed if the lids don’t make a “pop” sound when you push down on them.

Carbs per tablespoon: About 7

Comfort Me with Avocado (Toast)

The problem with most so-called “comfort foods” is that they are a heck of a lot of work. My mom’s homemade chicken soup is fantastically fantastic, and could beat your mom’s chicken soup in a chicken-soup-battle-to-the-death any day of the week—but if my mom’s not here to make it, it’s just not quite as comforting. The best comfort foods are simple enough to make even when recovering from a three-day fever and an overnight trip to the emergency room. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you avocado toast.

This is not avocado toast

 I woke up early on Thursday morning to get in some last-minute studying for my midterm later that day. Then I swallowed and realized there was no way that was happening. My throat was in excruciating pain. For some reason, perhaps because I think very very slowly in the morning, I decided it was still a good idea to try to sit through my econ lecture on . . . actually, I have no idea what the lecture was on. Half way through I bolted, bags, umbrella and all, and made my way over to student health.

After much debate, the friendly people at student health came to the conclusion that they had no idea what was wrong with me, or with my throat, but that if it got any worse, I should probably go to the emergency room. They did give me a note to get out of my midterm, which, considering I was running a 102 fever at that point was probably a good thing.

So instead of the weekend Dan and I planned, (Eastern Market, Capitol Hill Books, Nando’s Piri Piri Chicken and 50/50), there was much whining (me), comforting (Dan and my mom, over the phone), watching of the Hour, and a midnight trip to the ER on Friday night. Well, the only thing that needs to be said about that is that I was by far the soberest patient in there that night and, unlike the other patient in my room, did not threaten to throw an apple at any of the nurses.

Anyway, I am well on the road to recovery now, which is a big relief. But, since swallowing even water had been a serious problem, I ate nothing on Thursday or Friday. So the challenge of today, the first day I could walk to the kitchen without taking a break to lie down on the couch, was to find something to eat that was delicious, fatty, and easy to make. Enter avocado toast.

This time last year, I was on study abroad in Ghana. It was an all-around wonderful experience that I will try to address more in a future post (I am planning on trying to make fried yams at some point), but one of the few things I did not love about Ghana was the spiciness level of the food. I am not quite as much of a wimp as Dan is when it comes to spicy food, but I lean towards the wimpy side. So one afternoon, when I could not stomach the thought of any more jollof rice, I invented avocado toast.

Some other delicious Ghanaian produce: white pineapples and papaya

(I cannot take credit for this as an invention in the grand scheme of things—I am sure avocado toast has been invented by hundreds of people all around the world. But for me, then, it was a new idea, and a pretty cool one at that).

Avocado toast is comforting, high in all the best kinds of fat and fiber, creamy and delicious. Best of all, you can make it sitting at your kitchen table if you’re feeling too weak to stand!


1/2 a small-ish Calafornia avocado- 6 carbs

1 piece of whole wheat bread, toasted- 20 Carbs

About a tablespoon of olive oil

Salt & Pepper

1. Cut your avocado in half. Wrap the other half in saran wrap, with the pit still in it to keep it from turning brown (it won’t keep the exposed part from turning brown, but it will prevent air from getting to the part under the pit and oxidizing it).

2. Slice the avocado flesh horizontally, and then vertically, and use a spoon to scrape it into a small bowl, just like you were making guacamole.


3. Pour a tablespoon of olive oil over the avocado. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Mash it all up.

4. Spread the avocado on the toast. And there you go: you’ve got a comforting piece of avocado toast!

Total Carbs: 26

Muppet Toast!