This week I’m asking a favor. This favor involves some work, the work of coring and peeling a whole lot of apples. I wish the fruit would just split apart with ease like an apricot so we could mindlessly slip the pit out, but an apple requires something extra.

I only ask this favor because the end result is an apple butter that is so brown sugar-vanilla-cinnamon delicious that this might become our new fall tradition. As chair of the NAIS (No Apples In Summer), I approve, wholeheartedly, of this crazy-good apple treat (it’s not a dessert).

There does exist a tool, and from the looks of it what could really be called a contraption, that cores and peels apples with ease. I used to own one of these contraptions, given to me for Christmas one year long ago among a treasure trove of other kitchen goodies from my brother Tom. I hadn’t used it in years, and I question if I ever used it at all given my spotted history with apples.

I went a-searching for the thing in boxes, in my storage unit (something like that becomes your home away from home when you move around as much as I have the last few years), in the recesses of closets. I unpacked a box from the move out of Wagon Wheel Lane that I hadn’t touched since the day it was packed two years ago. I found a couple of neat things, like a black silhouette of myself at age three, but not the apple kit. Which is too bad, because it promises to make speedy work of peeling and coring an apple.

Probably that’s no matter, though, because most of us have in our drawers the only tool we had in culinary school to get the job done: a knife. A small knife, a paring knife that’s good and sharp (haven’t sharpened your knives in a while? Or ever? Take them in for a tune-up; you won’t regret it).

And one other thing: a melon baller. I’ve used mine for a few tasks, never among them actually making balls of melon. My aunt Anne brought over a beautiful fruit salad this past summer of little balls of watermelon and cantaloupe. How retro-novel it was, and so pretty.

The salad made me want to give my melon baller the opportunity to do what it wants to do the most. In the meantime, the melon baller is a great apple-corer (and a perfect-sized scoop for the dough for coconut macarons, but we’re talking apples, not cookies).

To core and peel an apple:

  1. Cut the apple in half lengthwise.
  2. Scoop out the core with a melon baller.
  3. Cut the apple in quarters lengthwise, cutting each half … in half.
  4. Peel each quarter with a paring knife, using your thumb if the peeling hand to guide the knife.

For the apple butter, we’re using about 6 ½ pounds of apples, a mix of sweet and tart varieties, which for me came to about 15 apples. Pull out your slow-cooker too, and get ready to enjoy the headiest, most succulent apple scent, one that comes from the real deal and not a candle pretending that something’s cooking. It’s so worth the work, and the wait.

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