By now you’ve noticed that our posts often have a sarcastic edge, or are stories told with an air of humor. This one will be a bit different, and a little more heartfelt.
This is a small tribute to a wonderful and charismatic woman who led a rich life filled with food and family.
My Great Aunt Lena is who showed me that the simple smell of a loaf of bread baking in the oven can convey comfort and safety. That no matter what is weighing on your mind, a perfectly poached egg can erase your worries. And that unconditional love can be interpreted through teaching a 12-year-old how to bake the best chocolate chip cookie.
When she would visit our house when I was a child, I would sneak out to her car and lie flat across the back floorboard of her ’65 Impala, hoping she wouldn’t see me and I could go home with her. She almost always found me.
On the one day she didn’t notice the stowaway in her back seat, I was feeling pretty proud of myself holding my breath and keeping quiet as she bumped down her winding gravel driveway. About the time she was positioned to pull into her garage (barn actually) I popped up and yelled “Hey Aunt Lena!!”
This was met with a series of sounds in reply: an expletive I had not previously heard, gravel peppering tin due to the fishtailing of a Chevy Impala and the sound of the back of a shocked and surprised woman’s hand making contact with the cherubic face of an equally shocked 6-year-old.
Lena never stopped the car, but spun it around and took me straight back home, doubled in laughter as she drove. I begged her the entire way to walk me inside because I was convinced my mother would never spank me in front of sweet Aunt Lena.
I was wrong.
She was a woman who found the good in every situation, didn’t know judgement, and was always loving, laughing and cooking.
aunt lena’s apple butter
makes about 10 pints
- large stew pot(s)
- apple slicer
- a large oven proof container
- food mill
- sterilized pint jars (with new flats and clean jar rings)
- 10 pounds of apples (Lena used Red Delicious and Jonathan)
- 1 cup of sugar for each 1 1/2 cups apple pulp
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Wash and dry raw apples. Core and slice apples. Do NOT peel. Using an apple slicer will save you a ton of time.
In a large pot (or pots) over high heat, stew the slices covered with a small amount of water (about an inch in the bottom of the pot). Stir frequently. The apples need to be very mushy, but not so mushy they don’t hold a slice shape.
Run through the food mill with medium disc to remove seeds and peels. Measure and transfer pulp and juice to an oven-proof dish. Add appropriate amount of sugar and cinnamon. Mix well.
Cover, and place in preheated oven for about 2 hours. Check about every 20 minutes until desired thickness is achieved. Mixture will thicken a bit more when it is cooled.
Fill warm, sterilized canning jars and top with new flats and rings. Cool on counter, flats should seal automatically. Any jars that don’t seal should be used immediately. Apple butter can be stored in refrigerator for up to 12 months.