Apple picking and dulce de leche. No skills required.

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So we live almost hollering distance from a golf course, which also happens to be the grounds Tucker keeps green, and they’ve got apple trees there that no one touches(!?). The trees line one of the fairways and there are some resident geese and a whole mess of deer that keep the area tidy and free of fallen fruit. The spot is maintained because of it’s location, but the trees are not subject to fertilization or spraying of any kind. Just what the geese leave behind. This is awesome news because they’re #1 on the dirty dozen 2014 and my kids double fist apples.

We decided to take the kids out one evening after closing and forage for some fruit. So we loaded up two carts, cause that’s how we roll these days, and hit the cart path. It made for some really nice family time, and we got to load up on future dessert filling and hand fruits for the kiddos…

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The boys stopped to hit some balls along the way too, but mostly Jackson was loading up on fiber.

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I think I’m gonna make it my personal mission to get some locally grown fruit-filled baked goods up in this golf course. That way they can stop spending their dough on outsourced pastries, and I can get my name out there. I’m already a shoo-in. And they’ve got the apples..

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dulce de leche

This recipe is really easy, but it is time consuming. It’s kind of a cheat too. Dulce de leche is traditionally made by cooking milk, sugar and baking soda down slowly until it becomes thick and caramelizes. I call it a cheat because I started with sweetened condensed milk. Therefore all we need is to produce a Maillard reaction and get this stuff browned like caramel. There are a few ways to do this, so I will give you the two which I have used before. Both are extremely simple, but one requires a bit more attention. With this method (# 2) it is absolutely essential that you watch closely and do not become impatient and try to speed the process by raising the heat. There is a point of no return here, and I would hate for you to ruin a pot. But that being said, it really is simple.

Both methods require only two ingredients, and one of them is completely intangible.

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Method #1 (easier but more time consuming)
You will need..

1 can sweetened condensed milk
4-5 hours (cooking and cooling time)

Take the entire can, label removed and unopened, and place in a pot of water with at least two inches covering the can. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and set a timer. You will want to check periodically to make sure you haven’t lost much water, and add a little when necessary. Just keep the can covered in water. So set your timer for 30-45 minute increments and check for evaporation.

After about 3 hours, remove from heat and use a pair of tongs to remove the can. Do not open! I’m serious. It may be bulging and the contents inside are liquid hot magma. Do not even attempt to open this can until it is cool if you like having skin on your exterior. Place on a cooling rack and give it an hour or so to come to room temp. When it has, open it up and eat it with a spoon. Or an apple slice!

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Method #2
This is the method I used to make this batch. Same ingredients, but it requires more attention and less cooking time. As the color darkens, the frequency with which you are stirring should increase. Use a high heat rubber coated whisk, or spatula for this method, or a wooden spoon.

1 can sweetened condensed milk
2-3 hours
2 Tbsp. Butter (optional)

Place a pot over the lowest setting on the stove. Open the can and empty contents into the pot and ever so slowly begin to heat. Make sure to frequently scrape the bottom of the pan to remove all caramelized bits. As stated above, you will need to increase the frequency you are stirring as the color changes to prevent burning. If you find that your caramel is browning too quickly, remove from the heat and let it rest a couple minutes. Give it a good scrape and stir to reincorporate and return to very low heat. After two to two and a half hours you should have a nice thick consistency and a browned sauce. If using butter, stir in until completely incorporated. Place caramel in a heatproof jar and allow to cool slightly before eating, or completely before placing in the fridge.

To reheat, microwave in 15 second increments and stir until warmed through. Alternately, place in a water bath in a pot and slowly warm on the stove over medium low heat.

This dulce de leche is reminiscent of the stuff you can get in the produce section by the apples, and if you choose to use the butter, the flavor will be similar as well. Either way it is delicious, but my mind is always in the butter 🙂

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