Friday, October 19, 2007

Molten Lava-or How NOT to Make Apple Butter

A couple of weeks ago, I posted that I had finished all of my canning. Well, the bug hit me again as I strolled through the grocery store. APPLES!! I hadn’t done any apples! No applesauce, apple butter, apple pie filling, apple rings, spiced apples, NOTHING! I scooted Sweet Boy over in the cart and loaded in a full bushel box of apples. (Now he had a seat instead of the “ouchie-wire” cart.)


Back at home I scoured through all my files for the delicious caramelized-sugar apple butter recipe that Gram and I made back when I lived in the mid-west. I couldn’t find it anywhere, looked all over the Internet too; I only found recipes that had real caramels added. I couldn’t can that, caramels have milk in them, so although the flavor may have been right, the recipe certainly wasn’t. I gave up my search and called Mom. She remembered it, but although didn’t have the recipe; she said that I should just be able to “caramelize” the sugar in a regular recipe and add it to create the caramel flavor.


Armed with this new knowledge, I carefully measured out my applesauce and discovered I had enough for a triple batch of apple butter, which called for 12 cups of sugar. I thought that if I caramelized half of the sugar and added the rest “raw” that would give it the flavor I was seeking. I dug out my heavy cast iron Le Creuset stockpot for the job, knowing that it could create a mess in the pan and I didn’t want to have a difficult time cleaning up my new Wolfgang Puck cookware. I got out several hot pads to protect my countertop when I removed it from the heat; caramelizing sugar takes a great deal of attention so it does not go past the point of no return and burn.


Everything was ready so I measured 6 cups of sugar into the pot and turned on the heat and started carefully stirring. It took awhile to get that much sugar heated and then it started to melt. I stirred and stirred and once it was all browned, there were a few lumps so I kept it on the heat just a few more seconds. Then all of a sudden, it grew into a molten-lava inferno. I quickly removed it from the heat to the waiting hot pad on the counter. It wouldn’t stop expanding. Like a volcano, it erupted its molten-sweetness over the boundaries of the stockpot and down the sides, flooding over the hot pad and across the counter like a lava-flow, cementing everything in it’s path to it’s final resting place. I panicked, but I was helpless to stop the searing-slow moving sugar-flow.

I watched; sickened by the prospect of ruined counters, burned floor and the hours I would spend cleaning up the mess; as it oozed and spread dark sticky drips to the floor. The air was thick with the smell of burnt sugar and the smoke hung dark and heavy. I sat down on the floor and cried. There was nothing else to do but watch as it destroyed my kitchen like the Roman city of Pompeii in the wake of Mount Vesuvius.

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