I made apple butter over the weekend. I give it to friends and family for Christmas and enjoy eating it on everything from ice cream to toast. I use an old family recipe that was given to me by my gandma shortly after I got married.
Grandma W. and I had a complicated relationship. I loved her with all of my heart, but we rarely saw eye to eye on anything. Despite that, she taught me one of my most important life skills - how to cook.
Much of Grandma's cooking was far from healthy, being heavy in lard, butter, and sugar. Everything she made was delicious, though. I still use some of the recipes she taught me such as egg salad and country gravy. However, my most treasured recipe from Grandma is the one for apple butter, which I use every year.
For me, Christmas isn't complete without making apple butter or pear butter. I use the same recipe for both. I have tweaked her ingredients a tiny bit by adding cloves and nutmeg. Her orginal ingredients included only apple pulp, sugar, apple cider vinegar, and cinnamon.
I remember fondly the day I called her to request her tried and true apple butter recipe. She gave it to me over the phone. She also shared much wisdom with me that day. From marital advice to religious beliefs, she laid it all out for me. We had the best visit that day, and I took everything she said to heart.
In true country cook fashion, she told me to bake it until it got that "eatin' look," and I would know when it was right. Reaching that "eatin' look" is still how I measure doneness in much of my cooking.
My stepdaughter used to get so infuriated when I would tell you that dinner would be ready when it was ready. The instructions/recipes are guidelines or starting points for me. I add and omit ingredients, substitute all sorts of things, and usually produce food that only vaguely resembles the original dish.
I miss Grandma, especially this time of year. She has been gone for over twenty years now, but her impact on me will last forever, the good and the bad. She shared her wisdom as much as her criticism. She was complicated, and in that, we are the same. She was a dynamic force to be reckoned with, and I hope I am living up to her legacy.
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