Thursday, October 29, 2015

Apple Butter!

The Story
I shared this recipe a few years ago, but I have updated it with a change in apples, sugar and spice.  Our family was looking for something to share that would be a meaningful and thoughtful gift for our neighbors and friends.  Like most of us, budgets are tight, especially around the holidays.  Pinterest is overflowing with ideas for artisan and hand-crafted gifts, and this one has been a family favorite.  You should be able to readily find 3 pound bags of apples in a wide variety in your local grocery store.  I know that the store near me carries these bags in 4-5 different varieties of apples.  In years past, I have also bought these at Sam’s and Costco.  
Apple butter is great on toast, English muffins or bagels.  But there are also some great recipes out there that use apple butter in muffins, cakes and breads.  If you do a Google search for apple butter, you will be blown away by how many recipes are out there.  Some can be made in as few as 30 minutes, while others like mine, take the better part of the day in a slow cooker.  So here are a few reasons that I think the slow cooker method works best for this recipe.  First, it cooks all day, but it isn’t all-day long intensive, standing over the pot kind of cooking.  Second, the slow method allows you to layer the flavors, so the spices aren’t muted, and the finished product doesn’t separate.  Third, it leaves your whole house enveloped in a fantastic, Fall flavored, warmly spiced aroma.
That’s enough of the story.  Let’s cook!
  • 6 pounds apples, cored and sliced (1/2 Fuji, 1/2 Gala)
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
The How-To
Start by preparing your apples.  You can buy a special apple corer/slicer/peeler at just about any housewares store for about $20.  They are easy to use and they really do work pretty well.  I have one in my kitchen.  I’ve made this recipe several times with and without peeling the apples.  I generally prefer the ease of leaving the skins on, but some people feel that the skins add a bitterness to the finished apple butter.  It should only take a few minutes if you want to skin and core the apples.  Cutting the apples into approximately 1 inch squares will help the apples to cook evenly and quickly.
Fill your slow cooker, set on its lowest setting, with apples and its okay if it’s a couple of inches above the rim of your cooker.  Add the apple cider and set the lid on top, as it cooks down, the lid will settle into place.  Walk away and let it do it’s thing.  Stop by every hour or so and give the apples a stir.
After about 6 hours, the apples will have softened and broken down, it will look like thick, chunky applesauce.  As a matter of fact, that is exactly what this is.  If you were to cool this and jar it, you just made applesauce.  But since we are making apple butter, not applesauce, let’s continue.  Add the sugar and spices to the cooker and stir until the spices are well dispersed.  At this point, you can switch from stirring with a spoon to using a whisk. 
Allow the sauce to thicken and the apples to continue to breakdown.  This stage could take anywhere from a few minutes to 2 more hours.  You can leave the lid off the cooker at this point to allow for evaporation. If you like your apple butter to be silky smooth, you can puree the apples or use an immersion blender (one of my favorite kitchen tools).

Now you are ready to do the canning.  You will process these jars for 10 minutes in a hot water bath.  Here is a great website that can teach you everything you ever wanted to know about how to preserve by canning.