14 September 2010

Apple Butter

It's time again for my next Daring Cooks' Challenge-one that I was very excited to try.  It was all about food preservation and how to get the most out of in-season produce. One of the options was to make apple butter.  Now, apple butter is one of those things that I've heard about, tasted only a few times and have never actually made. 

Apple butter also reminds me of my days in high school in Ohio.  When I was in high school, one of the neighboring towns held an Apple Butter Festival every October.  It was one of those old-fashioned, participants-dressing-in-19th-century-clothes, everyone-drinking-hot-apple-cider and sitting-on-hay-bales sort of fest.  The big difference there was that their apple butter was made in big black cauldrons over an open flame, churned mainly by ladies in aprons and bonnets, but they did give everyone a chance to churn the butter.

That was also when I realized there is no actual butter in apple butter.  It's just a consistency thing.  Basically, it's just a spiced and thickened apple sauce. It can be used for many different things.  The most basic is as a spread on toast or a bagel or whatever you'd like.  But you can also use it as a condiment with pork chops, as part of a marinade or in an apple quick bread.

Now, there probably won't be a big black cauldron over a fire in my kitchen in the near future, especially since we're renting right now.  All we've got here is an electric stove and an immersion blender, so that's how I'm going to roll with this.  I do have some notes though about this recipe.
  • If you want to be a little more "authentic" about it, you can use the whole apple: core, peel and all that goodness.  Just chop the apples into eighths before softening them.  Once softened, put them in a food mill and mill away (I don't have one, so hence all the peeling and coring).  Add sugars and spices and continue with the rest of step 2.
  • This recipe is suitable for canning.  I've never canned before, so I'm just going to freeze or give away what I can't use immediately.  But if you can can, more power to you!  I'll have a canning blog sometime in the future, once I have the equipment and have it figured out.
  • I can't recommend which type of apples to use.  I just used the ones I bought from a lady selling them on the side of the road.  Seemed to work out pretty well.  But, from what I understand, if you use a sweet apple like Golden Delicious, you won't need to use as much sugar, tart apples like Granny Smith will require more sugar.

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Apple Butter

5 lbs Apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
1 C apple juice or cider
1 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
  1. Combine apples and juice (or cider) in 8-quart pot. Cook slowly and stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook until apples are very soft and falling apart.  At this point, you have some pretty tasty apple sauce.  If you want to stop here, you can, but if you continue on, you will be rewarded with tastiness...
  2. With a potato masher, mash the soft apples.  Add the sugar and spice (and everything nice).  At this point I used a stick blender to blend to a smoother consistency.  If you would like it a little chunkier, by all means skip this step, but make sure to stir in all the spices well.
  3. Bring to a simmer and turn down the heat to keep it at a slow simmer.  Cover with a splatter screen or use 2 wooden spoons to support the lid open.  It is important to let the water evaporate to thicken the butter. Simmer for at least 2 hours, until it is thick and stays mounded on a spoon when it is scooped out.
  4. Let it cool a little, then put into the desired storage container or containers.  It will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge or up to a year in the freezer.  I would recommend using smaller containers if you don't think you will use up everything in a larger one fast enough.
Yields about 5 cups.

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