Thursday, September 11, 2008

I forgot the mess with apple butter

Oso, Terry, Tim and I found some incredible high bush cranberries out at Boy Scout Beach a couple weeks ago. We had hoped for a perfect beach day but it started out as a drizzle and ended up pouring buckets of rain.

The bushes were really tall and the distribution of berries looked more like grape clusters. We only found a bush here and there - not a great patch of bushes. We ended up with 4 cups which is about 1/2 of what I needed.

So the next weekend Tim and I were on the hunt for 4 more cups. I was trying to remember on all the walks we've taken where I've seen berries and I remember seeing them mostly out the road. We didn't want to drive out that far so stuck closer to the house. We stopped at 4 or 5 places before finding the right combination of water and woods. The berries we picked on the lower Montana Creek trail were more ripe and not nearly the size of those we found out the road but we got 4 cups so we were happy with that.

And then I started making the Applebutter. We always made applebutter with high bush cranberries. The recipe of the UAF Coopertive Extension service was a mainstay in our household. Its in their publication called, "Collecting and Using Alaska Wild Berries and other Wild Products" (FNH-001200) which they sell for $10. I forgot how messy it was to make this jam. First you have to heat up the dried apples and the highbush berries until the berries pop. This mixture spatters all over the stove. Then, because I don't have a food mill, you have to strain out the berry-apply mixture with does have texture to it from the high bush cranberry seeds which are about the size of an apple seed, but flatter. I have 3 strainers and ended up using all them, plus the potato masher, various spoons, and several pots and bowls. Good thing we have a dishwasher–I quickly filled it up!

When I had it strained, I added the sugar and spices and again had the splitter and splatter on the stove top. Then the canning process was an entire process in inself working with boiliing sugared jam, glass jars and steam. You might as well plan a day to do all this.

But the end result is delicious. I like to have it plain and Tim likes it mixed with spicy mustard (1:1) as a sandwich spread. We have enough preserves to give away and keep until the next fall when I'll want to do it all again!

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