I doubt this will surprise anyone, but Jason and I are what you might call “food gifters.”
We aren’t particularly talented at purchasing individualized gifts for people [unless there’s a detailed registry involved], but we will never turn down an opportunity to share food.
I think that’s because we have a strong aversion to frivolous “stuff” and food is the exact opposite of that. It’s more meaningful, more useful, and [hopefully!] more memorable, even after the last bite. It’s also our way of breaking bread with those we love, especially when those people are far away. Which is why, given the spirit of the season, we have recently found ourselves doling out everything from jars of pickles and home-brewed beer to graham cracker toffee and platters of fudge at every turn.
Sure, we all get tired of the endless Christmas cookies constantly being shoved in our faces during the entire month of December, but I can’t help but think of the time and energy that went into every single batch of sweets I see.
This may very well be someone’s long-cherished family recipe. Or their first attempt at making gingerbread with their child. Or their one tried-and-true method of getting into the holiday spirit. Or the easiest thing they could whip up amid their busy schedule. Or the only way they could think of to show their appreciation without having to say the words.
No matter the scenario, it’s obvious that in a very real and true sense, food is time. And isn’t time the most precious gift of all?
When one-click shopping and two-day deliveries are the norm [and something we take advantage of more often than we’d like to admit], how different and how cherished, then, is a simple Christmas card sent via USPS or an envelope filled with small treats of gratitude shipped across the country or even a cookie platter delivered to the neighbor next door?
I don’t know about you, but it is through these small acts of kindness where the magic of Christmas really comes alive for us.
We hear it in the stories of Advent at church and the carol concerts we attend despite the blizzards outside. We feel it when we make that fourth trip to the post office and when we receive a new daily crop of holiday cards in our mailbox. We witness it in the lights draped on the trees and houses at every turn and the Christmas markets that pop up in town. We smell it with every new cookie or batch of chili or loaf of bread or pot of glühwein made to provide warmth from the cold. And we experience it with friends and family gathered together in one place despite the rush, stress, and mania of the season.
Having sensed all of these things in the past month, we realize that our appreciation for Christmas stems really does stem from this sense of time: from the time set aside — for this one season of the year — to put others first. To shine light into the darkness. To share good news amid the chaos. To infuse warmth into the chill. To remind someone that you love them. And to have the time to cherish it all.
That’s what Christmas means to us this year. And as we enter the holiday weekend, we hope you feel it as well.
We depart for a very Texas Christmas this week, but we could not leave without sharing a recipe from our holiday wheelhouse. So as our gift to you, we present: Spiced Apple Butter.
This Spiced Apple Butter was our “food gift” of choice last year and something we find ourselves constantly returning to simply because of its versatility. We may have tried to veer away from the canned goods gifts this year [as the shipping complexities were getting more and more difficult to maneuver] but this will always remain one of our favorite Christmas concoctions for its make-ahead Crock Pot nature and season-friendly spiced perfection.
It’s ideal for all of your baking needs, whether slathered between layers of a cake or using in place of the fat in muffins and cookies. It’s also lovely for breakfast, stirred into your morning oatmeal of yogurt or smeared on top of bread, biscuits, or French toast. AND it makes a perfect complement to your main courses, whether alongside a combination of roasted turkey and brie or used as a glaze on a show-stopping pork loin.
The possibilities are endless. And the time is worth it.
Spiced Apple Butter
Borrowed and modified from Liana Krissoff’s incomparable cookbook, Canning for a New Generation.
- 6 lbs. apples, cored and peeled
- 2 c. apple cider or water
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. cloves
- 1/2 tsp. allspice
1. Peel and core the apples. [This will take awhile, so we recommend employing a gracious friend or family member and making it a group activity. Pop open a bottle of wine or use the leftover apple cider to keep the elves happy.]
2. Sauté the apples in a non-stick skillet to caramelize some of the sugars in them. [This isn’t completely necessary, but it adds a nice “oomph” to the final product.]
3. Puree the apples in batches in a food processor or with a hand immersion blender. Measure the final amount of puree so you know how much sugar to add in the next step.
4. Pour the puree into a slow cooker. Stir in the spices and 2 Tbl. of sugar per cup of puree. Feel free to puree again with an immersion blender if it needs a bit more smoothness.
5. Cook on the low setting with the lid set askew. This will allow the liquid to evaporate but still keep the splatters in the pot. Cook for approximately 9 to 12 hours, or overnight, stirring occasionally when you can until the mixture is thick and dark.
6. Can per safe canning procedures, or use within one week of making.