Stewart and I are turning over a new leaf. (Leaves are so light you would think it would be easy to flip one, but it’s not always, is it?) He travels a ton for work and I’ve returned to an almost-full-time job, so we’ve set an intention to make more time for relaxation and play.
I can hardly say “play” without feeling guilty, like I’m trying to get away with something. But it’s clear I’m not the only one. Just last week the New York Times was trying to help us all feel better about our very real needs to playfully noodle for nothing but the sake of noodling.
We got started on our new commitment by driving up the coast for a few days, to the Mar Vista Cottages at Anchor Bay. Mar Vista is great. The cottages are rustic but immaculate, and if you hang your egg basket on a peg outside the door, you wake up to half a dozen fresh eggs gathered for your breakfast.
We got to meet the hens . . .
We made friends with Lola the goat . . .
Who particularly liked Stewart . . .
And we took some great walks . . .
Bowling Ball Beach is full of wonders: those boulders and shells and beach glass, yes, but also evidence of many geological events that left art everywhere we looked.
I had no intention of doing anything with fruit on this trip, but I got a little surprise when — in the middle of dinner preparations — I opened what I thought was my friend Karen’s fabulous homemade tomato sauce and found, instead, a puree of my friend Gina’s lovely homegrown apricots.
Someone had the job of pulling the frozen tomato puree from the freezer and putting it in the cooler for our trip, and I guess someone didn’t look too closely at the labels. (Frozen tomato puree does look something like frozen apricot puree, but not so very much. Admittedly, I didn’t check the cooler very carefully, either.) After discovering the mix-up, a bit of improvisation yielded a weird but edible dinner and then, the next day, a batch of honey sweetened fruit butter, concocted on the little cottage stove.
Apricot Apple Honey Butter
4 cups pureed apricots
2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup apple-lemon-ginger juice (or 1/2 cup plain apple cider and a splash of fresh lemon juice)
1/2 cup wildflower honey
I started with the apricot puree, which was prepped and frozen almost two years ago. (If I remember correctly, I had simply washed the apricots, pitted them, and pureed them in the Vita-Mix, skins and all. It was nice to discover they were still in great shape after two years in the deep freeze.) I put the puree in a heavy bottomed stainless steel pot — grateful to the cottage for supplying one of those — and added the applesauce. Our local natural grocery makes a great apple-lemon-ginger juice and I had brought a little bottle along on our trip, so I added some of that as well.
I simmered the first three ingredients for ten minutes or so and then stirred in the honey. After that, I just cooked the mixture as low and slow as I could, stirring frequently, until it thickened into butter. I knew it was done when stirring left a clear track across the bottom of the pot and the butter rounded up on a spoon.
This mixture gets particularly spitty as it thickens, in part because there’s no added sugar. I didn’t have a splatter guard so I shielded myself as best I could with the lid of the pot. The primary bother was that the cottage stove, even though it’s gas, didn’t offer a very low flame. We used an oven rack to lift the pot off the burner, but I still had to stir almost constantly for the last ten minutes to prevent scorching and sticking. The whole deal cooked for maybe 40 minutes, and the yield was about 3 cups for the fridge.