One of our favorite pastimes during this cozy-up season is spending a little extra time in kitchen whipping up preserves to stash in the pantry. So after recently harvesting the apples from the orchard our thoughts naturally turned to warm, succulent apple butter.

Spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cider, the soul-soothing spread is perfect on rustic toasted bread (and makes a great hostess gift at dinner parties, too). Try making a few jars for yourself with this easy slow cooker recipe courtesy of The Apple Lover’s Cookbook by Amy Traverso:

5 pounds (about 10 large) mixed apples, peeled, cored and cut into medium-size pieces
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
1 whole star anise pod
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1;4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups fresh apple cider
¼ cup fresh lemon juice

Turn a slow cooker on high and add all ingredients. Cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Mixture should be bubbling vigorously. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour more. Remove and discard star anise pod.
With the lid set slightly ajar, continue cooking until the butter is dark brown and thick, 7 to 9 hours more. Stir well and pass through a food mill or strainer, if necessary to remove any lumps.

Place six clean 1-pint or twelve clean 1/2-pint jars right side up on a rack in a boiling-water canner. Fill canner and jars with hot water, about 1 inch above tops of jars. Bring jars to a boil over high heat; boil for 10 minutes. Using a jar lifter, remove and drain hot sterilized jars one at a time, reserving hot water for processing filled jars. Place jars on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet.

In another large pot filled with water, bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a simmer, then add clean lids and lid rings. Simmer lids for 10 minutes; do not boil, as this may cause problems in sealing jars. Drain lids and set aside.
Divide apple butter evenly among sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at top of each jar. Using tongs, place lids on jars. Using your hands, place rings on jars and tighten (but do not overtighten). Reheat water in the canner until it reaches at least 180 degrees, within 10 minutes of filling the jars. Place filled jars into the canner, one at a time, using a jar lifter securely positioned below neck of jar. Keep jars upright at all times.

Add more boiling water, if needed, so that water covers jars by at least 1 inch. Increase heat to high and cover. Once water begins boiling, heat jars for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and gently transfer jars to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet, taking care not to tilt jars and spacing each jar at least 1 inch apart. Avoid placing jars on a cold surface or near a cold draft.

Let jars sit undisturbed until fully cooled, 12 to 24 hours. Do not tighten ring bands on the lids or push down on the center of the flat metal lid until jars have cooled completely.

Once jars have cooled completely, test to make sure each jar is completely sealed: Press down on the middle of the lid with a finger. If lid springs up when finger is released, jar is unsealed. Store sealed jars in a cool place. If any of the jars are unsealed, store in refrigerator and use within several weeks.

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Though we just welcomed the New Year, we can’t help but turn our thoughts to spring: Here at the farm, the witch hazel and hellebores are beginning to bloom and our first seed catalog arrived in the mail this week. Until things truly thaw out, however, we are keeping  busy both indoors cooking and prepping boxes for the first delivery, and outside with the animals. Get up-to-speed with the latest news from Farm & Larder:

This month we have been handcrafting cheese in our very own creamery. We make a variety of fresh and aged cheeses in-house, including the hand-dipped whey ricotta included in your first box. As seen in the photo, we are brining the current batch before it goes into the cave to age; this step adds flavor and begins the all-important process of creating the rind. In a few months, the finished product may just show up in one of your weekly box deliveries.

In the orchard, the apples have been harvested and stored away. Originally planted over 60 years ago, our trees produce a great mixture for us to incorporate into our favorite recipes—from the unique, peardrop-flavored Ashmead’s Kernel to the sweet Golden Russet or juicy Melrose.

Our resident mole has burrowed his way into the garden and the “girls” have also been keeping toasty thanks to their thick, new winter coats, making it even harder to resist petting them when we stop by the barn.

From everyone here at the farm, both two- and four-legged, we wish you a very happy 2014!

this week's recipes
ode to the egg

farm & garden notes
hello, may!

workshops & events
new classes!