Besides picking out the boys' pumpkins; apple butter was my main motivation for going to the orchard the other week. I've never made apple butter before but I've been experimenting with jams and jellies lately and I was hoping to come up with a great recipe for Apple Butter so I could make some for the kids and some to give away at Christmas time. (We are doing mostly handmade gifts for Christmas this year...more on that later I'm sure.)
When I first started looking for a recipe/method for making apple butter I was a little overwhelmed. Every recipe I came across was different. They used different apples, cooked it on the stove or in a crockpot, canned to preserve or just froze the jars. Some called for peeling the apples, some didn't. There are a lot of options out there when it comes to apple butter. I finally settled on this recipe from the blog Serious Eats and made a batch to test it out. Lo and behold it was great on the first try! The apple butter was thick and smooth and dark and it tasted just like I remembered. Slightly spiced and not too sweet....it was very good.
I was so happy with the outcome that two days later I doubled the recipe and made a whole lot more. That batch I canned for gifts. It was my first experience with canning and I am really looking forward to learning and doing more in the future.
In the mean time, this is a really good, easy, recipe for apple butter. You can can it to preserve (keep reading for directions on how I did it) or you can just freeze the jars for up to a year. The apple butter keeps for about a month in the refrigerator so if you make a single batch as written below, chances are you will eat it up before you need to worry about it going bad.
Apple Butter, adapted from Serious Eats (makes about 24oz)
4 lbs apples (I used Granny Smith but from what I've seen around the web you can use just about whatever apples you want, you'll just need to adjust the sugar/lemon juice to taste)
1 cup apple cider
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground all spice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Peel and core the apples. Cut them in half lengthwise and then quarter each half. Put the apple pieces in a large heavy pot with the apple cider and let it simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes.
By then the apples should be nice and tender. Puree the apples. It is best to use a blender to puree the apples because you are looking for a very smooth texture. Unfortunately our blender died and while we are still searching for the perfect replacement, I had to use my food processor. Luckily, it did a pretty good job.
Once the apples are pureed you have applesauce! Dump the applesauce back into your large pot and stir in the remaining ingredients.
Put the pot on low and let it gently simmer for about 2 hours uncovered. Make sure to stir it occasionally to make sure the bottom doesn't burn. The applesauce will cook down and become much thicker and darker.
Once it has cooked down to your liking, fill up your storage containers or glass jars if you are canning.
To "can" my apple butter I filled clean 1/2 pint mason jars up to a 1/2 inch from the top. (You need this "head space" to allow for expansion) I put on the lids and screwed on the bands. Then I put my jars into a large stock pot and filled it with enough hot water so that the jars were covered by 1-2 inches of water. I brought the pot to a rolling boil and then hit the timer for 10 minutes.
The jars boiled, covered, for 10 minutes and then I removed them from the pot with the only canning tool I own so far....a jar lifter. All that was left then was to let them cool! As they cool you will hear the pop of the lids which means they are properly sealed. Check them once the jars are completely cooled to ensure that all of the jars actually sealed. The middle of the metal lid should feel solid and should not make a popping sound when you push on it. Click here for some more information on this canning method. Please note that I didn't use a rack inside my pot as recommended simply because I don't have one...yet. It is on my wish list right now. :)
After your jars are cooled you can label them, the ball jars come with cute little labels, and store them until ready to use in the cupboard. Homemade apple butter all winter, yum!
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