We planted an espaliered apple tree in 1985. 3 types of apples had been grafted onto this tree, which was just a skinny little thing back then. I was worried the entire way home that the little branches would break in transport. I have spent years giving this tree my love and attention, not only to its branches, but also to the soil it lives in. Over the years the tree has grown strong. It never has yielded much fruit, but it has always been beautiful.
This year I haven’t spent as much time in the garden. We’ve had a busy year of travel and business, which pulled me away. I’ve been feeling badly about it, guilty even. A couple of weeks ago I began the process of harvesting the fruit on our trees.
As I began to pick the apples I was humbled by the fact that though I hadn’t spent the time with this tree, pruning, etc. as I usually do, it was absolutely loaded with apples.
More apples than it has ever produced. This beautiful tree did not scold me for the lack of attention. It had not kept track of when I had last groomed it. It simply welcomed me with its open ‘arms’ hanging heavy with fruit.
Such a wonderful example the tree has given as to how we can relate to those we love.
We get busy with our lives and the people we love get busy too.
If we haven’t heard from someone in awhile and we finally decide to reach out ourselves, rather than sneaking in little guilt phrases like “haven’t heard from you in awhile,” perhaps we could simply reach out with open arms heavy with love.
So, what have I done with all these apples? I made a couple of apple tarts and with the rest of the fruit I made Chocolate Apple Butter. That’s right, I said chocolate! It tastes absolutely delicious and thought I would share that recipe with you. If you do any canning at all, I hope you will give this a try. And if you, let me know what you think. Bon Appetite!
Chocolate Apple Butter
Yield: about 5 cups
3 lbs. apples 1 ½ lemons
½ Cup water ¾ Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 ½ Cups sugar 4-inch vanilla bean pod, split open
2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)
Peel, core, and chop apples. If you wish to use the apple peel for added pectin, peel the apples in long strips. Grate the rind of the lemons and squeeze the juice. Put the apples, the peel (if using), the lemon rind, and the lemon juice into a saucepan with the water and cook together gently until the apples are very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the peel at this point, if you have used it. Sieve or process the pulp until smooth, then return it to the pot.
Toss the cocoa powder and sugar together, stir the sugar-cocoa powder mixture into the apple puree until it is completely dissolved; add the vanilla bean and continue to cook gently, stirring constantly until thick and smooth. When the jam responds favorably to the saucer test, remove from the heat. At this point, remove the vanilla bean and quickly stir in the orange liqueur (if using.)
Ladle into hot sterilized jars, leaving ¼” headspace. Eliminate air bubbles with a nonmetallic spatula. Wipe the rims clean, put lids in place, and tighten down. Shake jars firmly to further settle contents.
To ensure a good seal I like to place the jars in a bath canner and process for 15 minutes. Cool, label, and store in a cool, dry place.
As many of you know, I am a regular contributor to the Focusing On Life blog. Currently they are offering a giveaway to honor their readers. The prize is a choice of one of the beautiful 12 x 18 posters featuring Terri Porter’s beautiful photography. Her eye for color and composition make her images an inspiration to behold. The winner of one of these posters will certainly be proud to display it in their home. Want to put your name in for the opportunity to win? Check out their blog post that shows the posters with details on how you can participate. Good luck!