This column first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Domain magazine.
Remember Baby Boom, that 1987 rom-com with Diane Keaton and Sam Shepard? It is, I think, the best tree change story ever. Here’s my snap synopsis – a Manhattan-based workaholic adopts a baby, gives up the city life and buys a picture perfect yellow house in Vermont, complete with lake and apple orchard. In between fighting with/falling for the handsome local vet played rather wonderfully by Sam Shephard (vale), she starts making apple sauce and creates an almost unbelievably and instantly successful business selling the stuff as baby food.
An annual viewing of this movie is my happy harbinger of Autumn. As soon as the season turns and the apples on our trees are ready to pick, I watch it once then set to work making apple sauce, or rather apple butter. And once the jars are lined up on the bench and our kitchen smells richly of apples and cinnamon, I give a nod to Diane Keaton’s clever, independent and country-loving character C.J.
Apple butter – misleadingly – contains no butter; just apples cooked down with a little sugar and cinnamon then pureed and baked in a low oven until super concentrated and delicious. And in even better news, you can apply the same principle with other fruits such as poached quinces (pictured) or pears. It’s wonderful with scones, over ice cream, on pancakes, crumpets and toast, with roast pork and/or wrapped up in flaky pastry as a perfect hand pie. The moral of the story? Move to the country, do your thing, fall in love (with the community, landscape, lifestyle and produce) and of course, find an apple tree or grower at your local markets, make this apple butter and have your own Baby Boom moment. Lesson four in tree changing is now complete.
Prep time 10 mins
Cook time 1 hr 20 mins
Makes about 2 cups.
8 large cooking apples (I use a tart Granny Smith)
1 cup (250mls )water
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (55g) sugar
Preheat oven to 150C then peel, core and cut the apples into quarters and place in an oven-proof saucepan with the water, vanilla and sugar. Cook, covered for about 20 minutes (stirring every now and then), until the apples have collapsed into a soft mush.
Transfer to a food processor and blitz until smooth. Return to the pan and place (covered with a lid or foil, in a preheated oven for 1 hour (stir every 20 minutes though to make sure the mixture doesn’t catch at the bottom). Transfer to jars and keep in the fridge for up to one month.