Apple butter, stunted starter, & predictability

September 17, 2010 · 10 comments

Ok, class, let’s have a review:

Does anyone remember what typically happens to this blog when the seasons change?

Right, you in front? Yes, that is correct. The author of the blog tends to get whiny.

What else? Anyone?

Ok, back corner? Can you explain that further? Well, ok, that’s partially true. The writer of the blog does seem to delve into some sort of mild kitchen depression, but it’s hard to say for sure because we can’t see from her perspective.

Front row? Again? Well, you’ve certainly done your reading! You are right — twice a year, at the end of winter and summer, without fail, the writer draws a complete blank about what to write about. We know this because she tells us. Yes, I agree — it gets a little redundant. Yes, a broken record is a good metaphor.

Alright, students, don’t forget: Test on Monday!


I don’t remember being quite this mentally paralyzed in early-autumns-past; certainly not last year, when I was so overwhelmed by the farmer’s market, the apples, some wine, and then more apples. But this is a bad year for apples.

Is it sad that my kitchen-EQ (that would be referring to ’emotional quotient’) is so directly effected by a lack of good apples? The other night, after a splurge purchase that day of a really beautiful fillet of wild Pacific salmon, I managed to ignore the timer while flipping zucchini fritters, letting the momentarily-tender fish overcook. As I cursed myself and basically acted like a child in the kitchen, I wondered aloud if I would ever be able to cook a decent meal again (can we say extreme?). My husband (looking a little frightened) gently reminded me that I do this (tantrum-throwing self-culinary-deprecation) at the end of each season.

Do they make a pill for that? Maybe I should find a way to get more good wine?

All I have to show for this week is a large crockpot-full of not-great apple butter, and some sourdough starter that I might be slowly killing. The apple butter was a first-time experience (fresh off the success of canning pickled okra, and lacking in tomatoes, I needed to can something else) — I tried to combine two recipes, one from my friend Jane in North Carolina, and one from Kimball’s The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook. Problem was, in my combining and adjusting, I mis-read Kimball’s call for “apple cider” as “apple cider vinegar.” And while the amount I added shouldn’t be enough to completely ruin the batch, it does have a slightly off-flavor. Which leaves me wondering if I should even bother canning it.

And then, my sourdough starter: it’s like having a hamster. If we had a small caged pet, tucked away in the kids’ room (because it would definitely not be in any other room in our house, save the basement), I would likely forget all about it, and it would die. The same with my sourdough starter. I haven’t actually made bread in a couple months; so I kept in my refrigerator, bringing it out every couple of weeks to feed it and keep it happy. And now that it’s getting cooler, I plan to start making bread again; but I can’t do that until my starter gets really happy, which would happen if I could just. Remember. To feed it.

So, I hate to repeat myself, but that’s all I’ve got. Give me a string of gorgeous 75º days, some gold in the trees, and I’ll once again start waxing the wonders of autumnal food, to the point where you might wish again for a good case of seasonal-(transitional)-affective-disorder.

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Angie @ Just Like The Number September 17, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Being a fairly new reader, as in I didn’t know you a year ago, this is all fresh to me. But I totally get this feeling of grumbling and general discontent in the kitchen at the end of a season. Nothing sounds good to cook, no one wants to eat what I’ve cooked, nothing seems palatable. I wonder if restaurants everywhere cheer this transition in the season? Because we’ve been eating out a lot more than normal.

I do think you should alter your name for the affliction. Let’s call it seasonal-transitional-disorder and just tell everyone we’ve got a bad case of the STD’s. Then when the good stuff rolls around again there will be more for us.

katy September 17, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Nice — I like it. STD, I officially have.
I personally think the best treatment would be a trip to Recess…

Amy September 17, 2010 at 2:31 pm

I can get a picture in my head of the moment you discovered your fish was overcooked — one hand on waist, one hand on forehead, a heavy (impatient) sigh, and close your eyes. Then, with grim (and seemingly short-tempered) determination, you move on to whatever was next, though you carry yourself as one who believes this is a meal she’ll never get over.

katy September 17, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Well, you graciously left out the cursing, but — do you have video streaming from my kitchen?

Hannah September 19, 2010 at 12:11 pm

my husband and i ate at recess last weekend, and i concur that that would in fact be a good remedy. or at least, it would just be some really good food. like, really really good. the atmosphere was… interesting. but that is another story and not the food’s fault. but really, i was hoping you’d be inspired by this question: what is a girl to do with lots and lots (and lots) of beautiful and delicious little shallots? i would like to hang on to them somehow, but am not sure the best way to make them last. ideas?

katy September 19, 2010 at 10:41 pm

So curious about the interesting atmosphere at Recess!
The shallots — did you grow them this year? I think they keep for quite a while in a cool dry place, like onions.
Of course, if you need me to take some off your hands…

jane September 20, 2010 at 12:19 pm

so sorry your apple butter didn’t turn out, that makes me sad.

katy September 20, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Jane, it actually turned out fine. The off-flavor disappeared after it cooled and was refrigerated. I canned 3 pints — but will definitely keep to a smaller amount of vinegar the next time I make it (and it might not have even been vinegar that caused the flavor — I used rapadura to sweeten, and it might have given too heavy a molasses flavor).

heather September 23, 2010 at 8:36 am

hopefully the ingredients are cooperating of late — apple butter and homemade sourdough are killer! and you should take heart about the weather, b/c you just know that will improve. at least you’re not stuck in the florida panhandle (soon to be in far southeastern texas, oh boy!) where the temperature is scratching at triple digits, and the only color we see is the brown of death.

new to the blog and adore it all. cheers,


katy September 23, 2010 at 9:46 am

Thanks Heather ; )

The apple butter turned out not-bad, which was a huge relief. The sourdough… well, I’ll say it’s still alive, but maybe on life support?

It’s still in the 90s in Indiana, which is basically unheard-of for September. And unfortunately, with our dry-as-a-bone August, our trees will likely skip the shades of gold and go straight for brown. I can’t help but think we brought this with us when we relocated a year ago from the deep south.

Hope you’ll be near water in Texas!

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