I love the changing of the seasons. Don’t you? This time of year I get to pull out my flannel shirts and thick socks, which after a summer of bare shoulders and toes feels cozy and warm.
As the weather cools down, I delight in the autumn rituals that mark the season. This is a time of change. The kids are back in school, Halloween is around the corner, the cushions from the patio furniture get stored, and like a little animal, I find myself wanting to burrow into a place of quietude.
The season is marked by these changes and preparation for the descent into winter. Here are the five rituals that mark the change of season for me.
Ornamental pepper plants, with their bright red and purple colors last until the first freeze, as do mums. They make any porch look festive – sort of like an altar to the season.
I like to use pumpkins, too. Though I am way beyond a place in life where I carve mine, if you have grandchildren, they will appreciate helping you turn the pumpkins into scary faces. These days I use fake ones.
I prefer real pumpkins, but so do the squirrels. In fact, the little critters enjoy gorging themselves on the pumpkin seeds so much that after a few decimated pumpkins scattered about my porch, I started using the fake ones.
I also have a wreath made of twigs that I pull out every year. I am able to weave flowers and leaves in and around the sticks, so the wreath changes each year.
I am a disciplined writer who writes and studies every day, but autumn is my favorite time of year to write. There’s something about the cooler weather and the grey skies that are conducive to cocooning in my office, putting things on the page and staying put throughout the day.
This is a good time of year to put your poetry together, or a memory book for your family. There are so many creative and inexpensive ways to self-publish these written treasures, and they make great Christmas gifts.
Walking or hiking is a daily part of my life and this has to be one of the best times of year to be outdoors. The leaves are changing colors and the air is crisp and cool. The grey clouds hold the promise of rain or snow; replete with the movement of clouds, it is just a joy to observe.
I sometimes bring home small branches or leaves that I find on my treks. I remember my mother doing this when I was little. She would find little branches that had snapped off in the wind and bring them home, arranging them in a basket.
I still love the way that that looks.
Each year, I look forward to the new crops of apples. A few years ago I started making apple butter, and it’s become one of my favorite ways to celebrate the season.
Simmering apple butter fills the house with an intoxicating aroma. And since apple butter takes a couple of days to cook, you get to enjoy the wonderful smells for just as long.
I feel so grateful for the bounty and beauty of life. I am grateful that I get to write a couple of posts for this blog every month, and very grateful for the Sixty and Me friends who read my posts.
So, in this time of change and abundance, I want to share something with you: my simple, clean and healthy apple butter recipe. It’s my way of reaching across cyberspace and giving you a thank you gift. Because at the end of the day, saying thank you, whether for the harvest of a kind heart or the bounty of the fields, remains my prayer for the autumn.
I breathe deep and thank you.
- cored and chunked apples — whatever varieties you prefer, and don’t bother to peel them
- 1 cup of organic apple juice (no sugar added)
- ½ tsp. of nutmeg
- ½ of vanilla
- 1 heaping tsp. of cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. ground cloves
Here’s how it’s done…
First, core and slice apples into bite size chunks and put them into a 4-quart slow cooker. As the apples cook, they will reduce, so it’s not like you are going to wind up with 4-quarts of apple butter.
Then, put the rest of the ingredients into the slow-cooker.
Cook on low for 10 hours.
After 10 hours, cool the mixture until you can easily pour the contents into a good blender or a VitaMix.
Blend until smooth.
Next, transfer back into the slow-cooker. At this point I suggest that you put the whole pot into the fridge and go to bed.
The next morning, put the slow cooker back on low and cook the mixture again for two to three hours. The darkness and the thickness will depend upon how long you let the mixture cook. Leave the lid slightly ajar to avoid splatters. Turn it off when it is the consistency that you want. As it cools it will get slightly thicker.
When everything is cool to the touch, ladle the apple butter into 8 oz. jars and screw on the lids. Unlike “canning” which gives a shelf life to your wares, this apple butter must be refrigerated and will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge. Be sure to let people know that when you give any away. I usually come away with about four or five jars.
Serve on muffins, toast, waffles or pancakes. Enjoy and share a jar with a friend or family member.
Do you have a favorite autumn ritual? Something that delights you? What is your most appreciated autumn recipe? Please share in the comments.