Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Once Again -- for Jo-Ann and all those dear friends to whom it also applies...

I told my friend, who is about to become a grandmother for the first time, that being a grandparent is a little like being born again. It’s life being given back to you. It’s like getting your child back again.
Those about to become grandparents began the journey long ago with the birth of their own children. From the moment you know you are pregnant, your heart grows attached to that child. While the child grows inside your own body, there is a closeness, a communion that is fluid and spiritual as well as physically obvious. Birth binds your heart to the child more tightly. I remember the first time my father-in-law held my newborn son. I was sure he was going to drop Eric, he held him so casually, so confidently, whereas I wanted Eric to be held close. Labor still fresh in my mind, I held him like one does the most beloved treasure. I remember that inside me a roaring protective emotion reared and I very nearly snatched Eric away from his own grandfather! Andrea says that when Joey first came home from the hospital, she had him resting with her on the sofa. Andrea is a dog lover and she was relaxed with her beloved dog, Mario’s presence in the room, but when he leapt up on the sofa, Andrea’s arm went out and swept the dog off, flinging him to the floor. She reacted reflexively, without thinking, because when Joey was born, so was this fierce, dedicated love for him. When your children are growing in your home, their welfare is what you fall asleep thinking about and it is the thought that awakens you. As they grow up, they gain independence and confidence. Step by step, each accomplishment, each trial, each bit of understanding they gain means that in a terrible, wonderful way, they separate from you. It has to happen; you work and pray daily to make it happen.
People say the time that your children are small goes fast. What is fleeting is what becomes the brightest, dearest memories – those first moments of love and sympathy, the moments when you discover your child’s gifts and personality, the camaraderie you share as you support them in their struggles, the moments when you are entirely in sympathy with them. The “tortoise-slow” approach to adulthood requires the increasing separationof individuality and independence. And then—suddenly it seems-- they are adults; they feed themselves, find a place to live and make that place beautiful and comfortable. They make their own friends, pay their own bills and solve their own problems (for the most part).

But when you become a grandparent, the best moments are given back to you.
Remember the poignant tears you cried when your child went away to college? You have that child , or a lovely, revised version of him back in your arms again! Remember the inexorable ripping that happened in your heart when your child married? There she is, smiling and giggling with you again! Once again, a child, much like the one who moved out and left you with a strange echoing emptiness, falls asleep miraculously on your shoulder. Once more he asks if you can read and read and read those favorite books to him while he’s too feverish to sleep.
Just as you did years ago, you catch lizards in the back yard,make cookies, laugh at silly things. The tough times you suffered when your children were growing are miraculously redeemed and rather than make the grandparent fearful for the new generation, instead you discover that you have a heart full of hope born from the perspective of living and loving.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Three Poems

It's true that think about motherhood and birth and children a lot, but since Valerie is with child and soon to give birth, I’d like to offer these poems in her honor. I do not like them equally, but I appreciate things in each. I'd love to hear what you think, dear reader.

Poem to Ease Birth
Anonymous: Nahuatl (Aztec) translated by Anselm Hollo

In the house with the tortoise chair
she will give birth to the pearl
to the beautiful feather

in the house of the goddess who sits on a tortoise

she will give birth to the necklace of pearls

to the beautiful feathers we are

there she sits on the tortoise
swelling to give us birth

on your way on your way
child be on your way to me here
you whom I made new

come here child come be pearl
come be beautiful feather

All three of these poems, despite the various cultures and doctrines that they represent, recognize the connection between giving birth and God's care for mankind. In this poem, I love the idea that a child is a pearl. Besides the fact that I love pearls, I think it is an apt metaphor. Pearls are formed in the most mysterious and wonderful way in secret. And a child is as luminous and lovely as a pearl. In this poem I like the use of the word swelling, but best of all I like the invitation – the calling forth at the end of the poem which strikes me as the mother’s universal entreaty – certainly at the end of the ninth month when she longs to hold her child, but also her entreaty through life as she calls her child to shine in pure beauty.


Birth
by Annie R. Stillman
Just when each bud was big with bloom,
And as prophetic of perfume,
When spring, with her bright horoscope,
Was sweet as an unuttered hope;

Just as when the last star flickered out,
And twilight, like a soul in doubt,
Hovered between the dark and dawn,
And day lay waiting to be born;

Just when the gray and dewy air
Grew sacred as an unvoiced prayer,
And somewhere through the dusk she heard
The stirring of a nested bird,--

Four angels glorifed the place:
Wan Pain unveiled her awful face;
Joy, soaring, sang: Love brooding smiled
Peace laid upon her breast a child.

There are things I like and dislike about this poem. I love the images and the way that the poet creates a palpable understanding of the idea of “twilight,” by describing a flower bud as “prophetic of perfume and in phrases such as “twilight, like a soul in doubt.” Typically, I prefer form poems – that is poems where the stanzas are the same and the end words rhyme, but this poem feels a little stiff an stilted to me; I’m not sure why. I don’t like the last stanza. I think personifying pain, joy, love and peace as angels departs from the original expression of ideas in the rest of the poem.

A Cradle Song
By William Butler Yeats
‘Coth yani me von gilli beg,
‘N heur ve thu more a creena

The angels are bending
Above your white bed,
They weary of tending
The souls of the dead.

God smiles in high heaven
To see you so good,
The old planets seven
Grow gay with his mood.

I kiss you and kiss you,
With arms round my own,
Ah, how shall I miss you,
When, dear, you have grown.

Yeats is one of my favorite poets and this little poem shows why! Compared to the form of the previous poem, this one works better for me. Though I’m startled by the reference to “the dead” in a cradle song, I know it is Yeats’ edgy way of writing. His treatment of angels in this poem fits because all through there is a sense of God’s presence of the fact of a divinity that is dear and inexorably involved in the child’s well-being expressed in not only the reference to angels, but in God’s “smiles (something we don’t often hear about!) and in the planets’ solidarity with God’s’ “mood,” and finally with the statement “arms round my own.” This statement suggests that the poem’s speaker senses God’s embrace when he embraces his child. Lovely thought if ever there was one. So, the poet has filled your mind with lofty and inspiring thoughts and then he ends with the poignant truth that childhood is fleeting – and the suggestion, the “hidden meaning” that my students invariably complain about having to find, is that life itself is fleeting. The unity of the poem is perfect here, in a way, referring back to the reality of our mortality introduced in the first stanza. But recognizing the swift and fragile nature of life is one way of encouraging all to treasure and enjoy it!
Which poem do you like?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Danger in the Kitchen

Canning tomatoes is a little like having a baby. There’s lots of preparation, sterilizing instruments, and hard work involved and one tends to forget how strenuous it is. Each September, when it is time to teach someone new how to can tomatoes, I convince her to try by saying, “It’s easy!”
It isn’t.
There’s something so wonderful and satisfying about lining my pantry shelves with fresh tomatoes preserved in clean jars that I tend to forget what is involved. I realized this deep truth this year when some friends came over to preserve the 3 bushels of tomatoes that Andrea found for a total of $12.00. She called saying, "the back of my van is overflowing with the most gorgeous tomatoes!" She was not exaggerating!

We got busy.
Jars, lids, huge pots and tools were brought up from the basement. I borrowed my friend Wendy's pressure canner and I set about washing all these things. Clean rags, towels and pot holders must be set out. Cutting boards, knives bowls and ladles must be gathered.
The jars have to be sterilized and pots of water set on the stove to boil.
This is when my helpers came in. It’s fun to talk while accomplishing something as useful and delicious as keeping tomatoes for the winter. I actually think that tomatoes canned while fresh taste better in January than the pale never-ripe ones available at the grocery store. Here is what we used:

Ingredients
Use ripe tomatoes. Roma tomatoes have more body, fewer seeds, but often the regular tomatoes, which contain more water and seeds, can be purchased in bulk at the end of the season (September in Maryland) as less expensive “seconds.”
Lemon juice
Salt To Prepare:
Wash and core the tomatoes
Cut out any bad spots and discard these
Boil water in a large pot
Prepare jars, lids and hot water bath:
Wash and sterilize the jars, lids and rings
Fill the hot water bath with water and bring to a boil
Fill a large pot ( or the sink) with ice water
Here is how we did it:
Method
Cold Pack
When the water boils, fit a sieve into the pot of boiling water. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for about one minute. Lift the sieve to take them out and plunge them into the ice water. When they can be handled, slip off the skins.
Stand jars in a low rectangular pan into which you’ve poured steaming water. Press tomatoes into jars (large tomatoes can be halved) until fruit and juice come to within ½ inch of jar rim.
This is actually fun and it is surprising to find how many tomatoes can fit in a jar!
Do not add liquid. Add 1 teaspoon lemon juice and ¼ teaspoon salt…Keep the jars standing in the hot water while you are filling them and placing on the lids. Process in hot water bath for 30 – 80 minutes (depending on which source you consult).
Hot Pack
Wash and core tomatoes. Blanch and peel by dropping tomatoes into boiling water for 1 minute, then plunging into ice water and slipping off the skins. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and bring them to a boil in a sauce pot. Crush a few tomatoes to form juice and stir frequently during heating to prevent sticking. Ladle hot tomatoes into hot jars, leaving ½ inch head space. Add 1 teaspoon lemon juice and ¼ teaspoon salt. Seal with lids and process for 30- 50 minutes.
Pressure Canner
In the pictures, the ginormous, heavy-looking pot is the pressure canner I borrowed from Wendy. I did this because we did have 3 bushels of tomatoes to preserve and all the info says that using one of these requires less processing time. A pressure canner has a big weighty lid that clamps on with those black knobs all round the rim. It also has a pressure valve to keep steam in or let it out, and a pressure dial that indicates how many pounds of pressure is mounting furiously inside the pot. While I appreciate Wendy’s generosity, this tool is scary and not suited for my personality. Here’s what happened:


Once the jars and hot water were in the pot, I fastened the clamps down tight as directed. You are supposed to flip a valve to keep the steam inside the pot. This builds pressure. When the pressure dial reaches 10 pounds, you set the timer for 30 minutes of pressure processing time. This worked fine the first two times. The dial pointed to ten pounds, I set the timer, then watched the boiling pot. Wendy had cautioned me not to let the pressure get so high that the dial registered pressure over 20 pounds – which is considered The Danger Zone. This is why I watched it. I don't like danger when young people are in my kitchen.
At the end of 30 minutes, I flipped the pressure valve to let the steam out (as Wendy had directed). Steam came whistling out of there like the top of a volcano had blown off. When this cooled to a spit, I moved the pot over to the counter where it was supposed to cool down for another 10 minutes. This was fine and when we finally loosened the clamps, and lifted the jars out, they looked fine.

We kept filling the pot and repeating the process until it became almost automatic… too automatic.
Maybe it was getting late, or maybe I was talking as I always am, but during one pressure canning session, when I was supposed to be watching the dial reach 10 pounds of pressure, I forgot. When I did glance at it, the dial showed DANGER ZONE!

What did I do?
I said very calmly, as I turned the burner off (ask anyone who was there) “Okay, you all get out of the room. This thing is going to blow!”
Did they listen to me?

No.

They all stood there. No one even backed away for their own safety. Instead, they tried to help me pull the pressure canner (which weighs twice as much as a young elephant) off the burner to help it cool at least to the safety zone.
They all survived.
Then someone had the bright idea of flipping the pressure valve to let off some pressure in a safe way, which I did. Though the steam release was more like a rocket taking off, the pot did not explode and no one in my kitchen was hurt. Though the goal at the start of the night was to can tomatoes, my goal became to make it through without anyone getting hurt.
Therefore, I was panicked and nervous. So the next batch I was determined to watch with a careful and relentless eye. And I did. But this time, the pressure would not rise to 10 pounds.
This went on for probably 40 minutes, me staring at the pot, waiting, fuming internally at the stupid pot. Karlene stood patiently beside me saying, things like, “are you sure you have that valve right?”
“Yes, yes,” I might have sounded impatient because after my scare I thought she was just standing too close to that horrible pot. “I’ve got it. You can go relax. Go sit down. Go read a book in safety.” (I probably just thought the last part of that statement in my head and didn't say it aloud).
But she didn’t go, she stayed there and finally said, “If you’ve got the valve set right, then why is all the steam escaping from it?”
I looked at her, then I looked at the valve –which was actually open letting all the steam escape, preventing any pressure from building up.
That’s probably why Tara and I were still in my kitchen at 1:30 in the morning processing the last of the jars.


We also made salsa with hot peppers from Tara’s own garden and sweet yellow tomatoes that Maggie grew in her garden!
Salsa
Ingredients
4 cups peeled, cored, chopped tomatoes
3 cups variety of seeded and chopped peppers including bell pepper and chiles
1 cup chopped onions
1 jalapeƱo pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 ¼ cups vinegar (5 percent)
¼ cup lime juice
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves
1-½ teaspoons salt
Method
Place all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Place in hot, sterilized pint jars, seal with lids and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes
In the end, I learned what competent, good-hearted and fearless young women are in my circle of friends, we got to know each other a lot better, enjoyed being together, worked really hard, made some good memories and each person took home priceless experience and knowledge, 6 quarts of tomatoes and several pints of salsa!
Canning tomatoes is not at all easy, but it’s worth it!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Funniest

"If you tickle us, do we not laugh?"... Shakespeare from The Merchant of Venice
My students often said they liked my class because I was so funny. This surprised me because I live with truly funny people and I never thought I could compete with their level of comic expertise. One of the reasons I married my husband is that I knew we’d be laughing all through life. He considers it his duty to try to break up any stuffy meeting at least once with a wry observation; he’s quite good at doing this. The story about his first job interview when he was leaving his duty as an artillery officer in the US Marine Corps illustrates what I mean. When asked for the work experience he could bring to the telecommunications field, legend recalls that he said, “you mean other than the fact that I know how to blow your house up from 500 yards away?” and was immediately hired by men who liked a good joke.
Those who read my daughter’s blog know that she is both a hilarious and meaningful writer. If you haven’t read her blog, you’re in for a real treat. Check it out at http://bedbyday.wordpress.com/ All my sons are funny in their own ways. My son Joe puts stuff, like ribbons, on his head at family parties.
At least he's wearing a hat here:

He and my son Karl have a yearly competition to see who can wrap his Christmas present in the most outrageous way. One year, Joe hid Karl’s present inside an iced layer cake. If you think that’s extreme, Karl sunk Joe’s gift in a block of gravely cement. Eric tells outrageous stories to entertain us, and often at family dinners, someone will say something that makes Joe and Care snort their ice tea out through their noses as they convulse with laughter. This is very funny to watch. Karl threatening to stuff a cherry tomato in Joe's ear. This is apparently funny and something they do.

So it’s easy to understand why deep gratification was mine to be told by teenagers that I was funny. Though I suspected they were laughing at me, not at my jokes or with me, I was still delighted; I found my students’ antics to be one of the best rewards of teaching. I remember how Soo hid in my class that one fun year.
Soo was in a different section of grade 11 and at the semester change, I hadn’t quite got used to who was in each class. So when I saw her sitting there, I was happy to see her (of course, I’d seen her a few hours earlier), and that was that. I could tell something was up because my students were all sitting up straight as planks, looking at me intently and smiling with a fixed sort of phony smile. This never happens if everything is normal. Teenagers only stare at the teacher if they are trying to sneak a look at their cell phone or if something else is going on in the room. They think if they look brightly at the teacher, she won’t notice what else is happening, but for me, it is what clues me in. So, I finally said, “What? What is going on?” Everyone burst into laughter and pointed at Soo. I still didn’t get it and said something like, “Come on, people, it’s not polite to point and laugh at poor Soo.” Alex, being merciful to me, managed to say between gasps of laughter, “She’s not in this class and you didn’t notice!” That’s what I mean about laughing at me.
me with a former student and her sister who is not only a former student but also now a colleague
I’ve had other serious blows to my confidence. Last winter, I wrote about how my grandson Joey was doubtful of my humor http://eighthandsaround.blogspot.com/2009/02/thats-not-funny-grannie.html
and this was probably because I laughed with delight at his attempts feeble attempts to joke. I love to see him laugh; he has a smile that sparkles and a laugh full of enjoyment. This year, Joey likes to play GI-Joe.


hiding from the Cobras in Grannie's closet

I’m an old pro at playing GI-Joe and I had some of the little figures left from when my boys were young. Now when Joey and Jack come over, we get these out and play with them. Providentially, (I suppose) the recently released GI-Joe movie means that there’s fun merchandise available and my husband couldn’t resist buying Joey and Jack some paper masks of the GI-Joe characters. This resulted in lots of fun. Joey had to be Snake Eyes because everyone knows he’s the coolest. Snake Eyes doesn’t talk, which does present a problem for the non-stop chatterer that Joey is. So to avoid having to talk, we don the masks and hunt Cobras – who are, for the uninitiated, the bad guys. Joey insists that we sneak because Snake Eyes is stealthy. Jack has no intention of sneaking, he just trots in his joyful, heavy-footed toddler gait the entire circuit from the kitchen to the living room and back around calling out, “Yo, Joe!” while Joey sneaks and I follow. ...acting like brothers... at least Jack is not putting a cherry tomato in Joey's ear. Not old enough for the really funny stuff.
Joey sneaking means he runs as fast as he can from room to room. Joey scampers so quickly and so happily that sometimes it looks as if he’s skipping on air! Jack and I can not keep up. Here’s what happened: while Jack and I plod through the hall, Joey zoomed past us. When he came back around to overtake Jack and me again, he stopped, screamed and burst into delighted laughter. His shoulders were shaking he was laughing so hard. Apparently the surprise of his brother and I in masks was too much for him. This kept up, round and round the house, Joey shrieking with joyous laughter each time he overtook us. Finally, exhausted, he grabbed my knees and hung on. “Grannie,” he said, beaming up at me with that dazzling smile, “you are the funniest girl in the whole, wide world.”
Somehow I suspect that he, too, is laughing at me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

September Brought My First Apple Tree

"The tree of life my soul hath seen,/ Laden with fruit, and always green..." Elizabeth Poston
My dedication to apple trees began when I was young. I lived in a house built around the 1890s and set on property with what we called a “second yard.” This means that behind our house, the land was terraced by a stone wall, which itself was divided by stone steps leading to a lower grassy lawn. This “second yard” overlooked the vast acreage belonging to a lumber company. Evenings and weekends, when the lumber company was closed, my sisters and I explored the woods and swamps below our home. It was in these acres that most of my childhood adventures took place. It was here that I discovered apple trees.
Down the stone steps we went one day, my parents, sisters, grandparents and I for a Sunday afternoon ramble. Crossing the length of our second yard, we climbed through the bramble hedge, down the hill to a dirt road that curved through the woods and fields to the lumber company’s storage buildings and workshops. It was September with its endless, bright blue sky; tufts of golden rod and Queen Anne’s lace bloomed along the dirt road below great leafy trees just gaining touches of gold and orange. Summer’s humidity vanished, the air held the promise of crisp, cool weather though the sun felt hot on my head and shoulders.
I’m not sure what we were looking for, but we found an apple tree. We wandered down the dirt road, past the huge, aluminum sheds where the lumber company kept their toothy saws, startling as sleeping giants, and piles of planked wood still scented with the sharp vitality of sap. We were walking in clumps; I, the daydreamer, lingering behind. Avoiding the trash dump, which was considered dangerous because of the rumor of wildcats lurking there even in daylight, we left the road and tramped through the meadow thick with clumps of hay, spent blackberry bushes – grasshoppers leaping before us.

The tree stood on the edge of the meadow. Tall and rounded, the tree’s branches sagged with the weight of heavy, yellow apples. The sun’s heat was scented with their ripe fragrance – a tart scent that tumbled fresh air and roses together. As he began to pick them, my grandfather declared that they were Golden Delicious and that they were perfectly ripe.
Maybe it was the warmth of the fruit picked in the sunshine, maybe it was my grandfather’s exuberant enjoyment, but the apple quenched my thirst with a flavor distinct and bright and as refreshing as its scent had been enticing. We picked all we could carry and went on our way. After that September, I searched again for the apple tree, so obvious and fragrant on the edge of the meadow. Something inside, a thirst awakened, urged me to keep looking though the rest of my family had lost interest. But the incomparable flavor, the memory of the tree so generously laden beckoned me. I checked back later in the fall, expecting to find it, but I couldn’t. I remember asking my family exactly where it had been and steered my adventures all winter to that part of the land below our second yard. Eager to see the blossoms, I searched again the following Spring, searched all through the summer. I never found that apple tree again. But searching the woods for love of it led me to discover beautiful and magical things that have sustained my imagination and beckoned me always to search for the unexpected and generous inspiration God gives. I can picture that first apple tree still, the fragrance so sharp and clear, the fruit fulfilling its daring promise of beauty and substance.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Putting Apples By

"There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall." ... Robert Frost
Some women I know wanted to learn how about the old art of “putting food by.” I’ve always loved making jam, putting it in a sparkling clean (read sterilized) jar, processing it in a hot water bath until it was sealed up tight for the winter. The jars of jam look like jewels on my pantry shelf. I also love to put applesauce by and tomatoes.
We decided to start with applesauce.
The beautiful thing about this event was that everyone participated. Andrea found lots of apples for free. Joey and Jack helped us pick some from our own trees. Tara bought some apples, took pictures and scrubbed my entire kitchen after the work was done. Karlene brought supplies and lemon juice. Maggie provided apple cider with lots of good cheer and Valerie contributed lids for the jars and lots of funny comments. Linda and Joanna came for a little while with their big smiles and friendly manner and helped to work during the most hectic work time. Everyone enjoyed working hard together.
Karlene, Linda and Andrea filling the jars
Applesauce

Ingredients:
approximately 2 ¼ pound of apples to 1 quart of applesauce
apple cider
lemon juice

Supplies:
canning Jars, lids and rings sterilized
hot water bath
jar lifter
knife, sterilized
wide mouth funnel
towels, clean rags

Apples:
Wash apples and quarter – no need to peel and pit
Cook them in a large pot in apple cider. Use enough to provide a liquid base so that the apples will not burn. Simmer this until the apples are tender.
Put the apples through a food mill to separate the skins and seeds from the soft pulp.
Tara and Valerie putting the apples through the food mill. Why the pregant woman is standing on a stool I do not know.
Jars, Lids and Hot Water Bath:

Fill the hot water bath with water 2/3 full and bring the water to a boil. Leave the wire jar rack in there to heat up.
After sterilizing the knives, jars, lids and rings, keep them hot in the dishwasher or in pans of simmering water.

Filling the Jars:
Using the wide mouth funnel, fill the jars while the applesauce is piping hot. Leave ½ inch “head room” at the top of the jar. Don’t fill it to the brim as it will burst in the hot water bath and perhaps even break the jar.
Add 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice.
Run a clean, hot knife around the inside of the jar to clear away large bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jar clean with one of the clean rags. Place lid on and screw on the ring tightly but not so tight that you can’t get it off.
For years I've burnt fingers trying to get the lids out of the scalding water! Not any more! Karlene brought this amazing tool.
Raise the rack in the hot water bath up and hook it on the rim of the pot. Place the hot jars on the rack (it fits 7) and using both hands, lower the rack into the hot or boiling water of the water bath.
The hot water bath both sterilizes the jar and its contents in a way that makes it safe to keep the food. The heat and the depth of the water cause air bubbles to escape during the boiling bath.
Bring the water back to a boil and boil hard for 10 minutes. Lift the rack and hook it again on the rim of the pot. Using the jar lifter, remove the jars, one at a time and place them on a folded towel. As they cool, a vacuum forms and the lid seals the vacuum shut. You will hear a pop as this happens. It is important to leave the jars undisturbed until they are cool – 12 to 24 hours. Check each lid to see if a vacuum has formed. If it has, the lid will be flat, no little dent up in the middle.
If a jar doesn’t seal, keep it in your refrigerator and use it first. Enjoy your applesauce all winter!

We made 35 jars of applesauce! Cindy and Laura, I saved one for you.
We were having so much fun, we decided to make apple butter, too.
Apple Butter
To make 5 pints:
Ingredients:
4 pounds apples
2 cups apple cider
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt

Supplies:
canning jars, lids and rings sterilized
hot water bath
jar lifter
knife, sterilized
wide mouth funnel
towels, clean rags
crock pot or large oven casserole dish

Prepare the Apples:
Wash apples and quarter – no need to peel and pit
Cook them in a large pot in apple cider. Use enough to provide a liquid base so that the apples will not burn. Simmer this until the apples are tender.
Put the apples through a food mill to separate the skins and seeds from the soft pulp.
If you don’t have a food mill, simply peep and core the apples, cook them, then mash them with a potato masher.
Place the applesauce into a crock pot or oven proof dish.
Add the spices, sugar and stir well.
This has cooked for 8 hours and is not anywhere brown or smooth enough!
Cook without a lid for about 18- 24 hours. Stir often, scraping the sides of the dish. When ready the mixture will be dark brown and much reduced. It will sheet from the spoon . When the butter is dark enough but not quite smooth enough, cover again and cook on low.

The apple butter may also be baked in the oven. Mix all the ingredients in an oven proof dish. Place in a cold oven and set the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
Let it bake until it thicknes, stirring now and then.
See how far this batch has cooked down? It's still not smooth enough. Won't be long, now.
Jars, Lids and Hot Water Bath:
For apple butter, smaller, half pint jars are better.

Filling the Jars:
Using the wide mouth funnel, fill the jars while the apple butter is piping hot. Leave ½ inch “head room” at the top of the jar. Proceed as with the applesauce and process for 10 minutes.
While I was busy talking, Andrea and Tara cleaned every dish, the counters and the floor.
Even if you don’t get the fruit for free, it is worth the taste and freshness to make and preserve your own applesauce and apple butter. This is an art that must be done Eight Hands Around style -- that is with a group of friends. Next week we are going to can tomatoes and after that – peach jam!