October 9, 2010

It all began last week as I was departing Zion National Park, whizzing along with the windows rolled down, the desert sun beating, and the dry heat parching my mouth and arms. I spotted rows and rows of apple trees. Around another corner, a U-pick sign. With haste and excitement, I pulled the car into the dirt parking lot and fled the vehicle for the shade of the trees — still dirty from running in the canyon, still hungry from running in the canyon, I stayed for an hour (or maybe more) plucking juicy, ripe, apples from the trees. One for me, one for later, one for me, one for pie, one for me, one to dip in caramel….

Fall means apples. And where would the apple be without the occasional sharp cheddar, dusting of cinnamon, or drizzle of caramel? Back home at the empty leader house in St. George, it seemed to me that a quiet kitchen, more time than I knew what to do with, and more apples than I could ever eat plainly were an excellent reason to get simmering a bit pot of perfectly burned sugar. This week, there are certainly more and more reasons to get bubbling.

On Monday, I will depart for Spain – a much anticipated trip with Backroads friends to Catalonia and the Costa Brava to ride bikes in the Pyrenees, drink wine, eat, and enjoy the country in celebration of a summer of hard, happy work. But this week I am home to find that the lovely little jar of Goat’s Milk Caramel from Fat Toad Farm that I left behind in the refridgerator in Portland is now empty. How is that for serendipity?

Goat’s milk caramel, or cajeta as it is called in Mexico, is in fact a variation of legendary Dulce de Leche, reigning from Spain. The primary difference between the two being that the former is made with goat’s milk, the second from cow’s milk. These days, there are all sorts of delicious variations but the heart and soul of Dulce de Leche is sweetened milk, cooked until it caramelizes. Ecco! This particular caramel was a possible accoutrement to Jason’s birthday Mascarpone Cheesecake, and is the delicious base for fruits in tarte tatin.

Sticking to the tradition, I’ll call this one Canyon Cajeta even though brains, and suitcases are on Spain. Perhaps next summer Mexico will call….but that will be another recipe all together.

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