It’s time to start living the life we’ve imagined.
– Henry James
Exactly a year ago, we kicked off our Featured Jam Series with our friend Jessica Koslow’s mesmerizingly delicious Sqirl Blenheim Apricot Jam, which emanates warm, sunny California fruit and is especially coveted during our typically rainy, chilly North Carolina winters.
On this first anniversary of our jam series launch, as the days grow a wee bit shorter and the mornings greet us with welcome wisps of cool air, we’re again featuring Sqirl. This time, perhaps due to the early arrival of autumnal temperatures, we’re looking ahead to fall and featuring my absolute favorite of Jessica’s jams: Gravenstein Apple Butter.
First, a confession: I am openly and enthusiastically obsessed with apples. With few exceptions due to sickness, physical impossibility, or crisis, I have eaten at least an apple a day for as long as I can remember. In fact, a primary reason I started making nut butters is my need to eat apple slices covered in peanut butter at least every 24 hours. I have planned entire weeks around locating semi-wild apple trees and abandoned orchards. My first and only speeding ticket came from passing a Virginia Highway Patrolman doing 90 in a 65 while on my way to collect heirloom apples from rumored backyard orchards near Grayson Highlands State Park. I consider Lee Calhoun one of the world’s most under appreciated geniuses, and I am lucky enough to have spent time at his wonderland of Southern heirloom apple cultivars in nearby Chatham County, NC. The annual November open house at David Vernon’s Century Farm Orchards in Reidsville, NC, is a holy pilgrimage. In 2009, when I closed on my first house in Durham – before I even arranged for the electricity and plumbing to be turned on – I planted three types of heirloom apple trees and two types of fig trees in the yard. When friends have purchased land to start farming, my custom has been to offer an heirloom apple tree as a “farm warming” gift. In a fall fever of apple butter making, I once stayed awake for 48 hours watching a pot of slowly simmering apple butter because I was convinced that if the apples cooked down naturally (without the use of a food mill), the flavor would be more intense. Turns out, I was probably wrong about that, but the apple butter was delicious.
Jessica and I have exchanged a lot of jars of our work over the years, but I still remember the first time I had her Gravenstein Apple Butter. I knew it was going to be really good (because everything Jessica makes is amazing), but I wasn’t prepared for how much I’d love it. The richness and depth of Jessica’s apple butter immediately took me back to the slow-cooked magic my great-grandparents would make in a huge copper cauldron over an open wood fire in their backyard. Made with fresh California Gravensteinapples, sugar, and lemon juice, Sqirl’s Gravenstein Apple Butter is the perfect jam to take us from summer into fall. It’s just as delicious atop ice cream as it is generously spread on thick, warm slices of French toast next to a cup of your favorite coffee.
Jessica’s note on Gravenstein apples from her beautiful 2016 book, Everything I Want to Eat: “All apples are not created equal. This variety really is unique. It’s floral; it has good acidity. It develops a blush color when it cooks. That rough toothiness you sometimes find in other apple butters? You don’t get it with this. There is no true substitution.”
Jessica also notes that the sweet-tart flavors and crisp, juicy textures of the Gravenstein Apple symbolize Sonoma County, California’s historical agricultural traditions. The Gravenstein, which was first planted in Sonoma County in 1811 by Russian trappers, ripens in late July and is therefore one of the first apples in North America ready for market. Good timing, in our opinion.
We’re honored to offer Sqirl’s Gravenstein Apple Butter as our September 2017 Featured Jam. While supplies last, it’s available a la carte and in recommended PB&J and AB&J pairings in our web shop. Enjoy!