I’ve recently discovered bourbon. Actually, that’s not true. I recently rediscovered bourbon. I discovered bourbon, or rather its cousin Jack (in shot form) in my early twenties. Which is why it’s taken me until now to venture into the brown booze again. And I apologize to bourbon for that. College capers and a life-long loathing of scotch kept me from any caramel colored quaff, as I assumed all brown booze = blech. Oh silly, silly girl….
Whiskey, I’ve gratefully discovered, is a very versatile liquid. Sure there’s experiencing it in glorious simplicity: a good glass, a nice pour, sit back, sip, breathe. It’s taken me about 25 years to appreciate that. But as far as the amber brew’s culinary charms go, well, the applications are endless. Simply put, whiskey makes things taste better! To be clear, I’m not talking about those overly potent bourbon balls where you can practically see the fumes rising as they sit on holiday plates in the staff lunchroom. I’ve never been fond of recipes with booze in them where all you taste is the distillery. What I mean is the subtle, caramely undertones a shot or three of bourbon imparts on a sauce, custard or even caramel truffle ganache. For example, check out this Bourbon Pumpkin Tart from Fine Cooking. A little tipple in the tart makes all the difference in the world. In fact, just about anything you make with pumpkin is better if you bless it with a shot of amber nectar. Sweet squash and whiskey are pretty much a perfect match.
Then there’s fruit, which brings me to the first installment of the Whiskey Chronicles (yes, there will be more.) When you live where I live, finding ways to enjoy the ample gifts from the orchards is mandatory. On a recent Sunday I traveled up into the Hood River Valley and picked up a few apples. Ok, more than a few. A crisp fall day in the orchards is a great idea, until you get them home and realize you have 10 pounds of apples to consume. But when you introduce a basket of apples to a bottle of Maker’s Mark, wonderful things happen…
Bourbon Apple Butter
Makes about 4 pints (8 cups)
I made this in a slow cooker for two reasons. First, I don’t want to have to mind it, stirring on the stove top so it cooks but doesn’t burn. Second, (and the real reason), if I start this right before I go to bed, my house smells AMAZING when I wake up the next morning. So if you want to make it on the stove top, go right ahead. Stand there. Stirring. I’m going to bed…
- 6 1/2 lbs apples (crisp-tart works best), peeled, cored and sliced
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 TBSP cider vinegar
- 1 TBSP lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4-6 TBSP bourbon
In a medium bowl, mix together the sugars, spices and salt. Add the sliced apples to two large bowls (if find it makes it easier to mix.) Add half the dry mixture to each bowl of sliced apples and toss well so all the apples are coated with the sugar and spices. Pour the apples into the slow cooker, add in the lemon juice and vinegar and toss well. Set the slow cooker to low and cook 9 hours.
After 9 hours, the apples will have broken down, and the color will be a beautiful mahogany brown. Now is the time to grab the bourbon. Add in 4-6 TBSP, stir around, then set the slow cooker on high for 2-3 hours more, leaving the top halfway on. You want the liquids to evaporate enough so that you have a spread that is thicker than apple sauce. Once you are at a thickness you like, use a stick blender or food processor to puree. Portion into prepared jars and can as you would any jam, or store in the refrigerator. Enjoy on toast, pancakes, waffles, or right out of the jar. 🙂 Approximately 50 calories per tablespoon.
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