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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Apple Butter

Apple picking at the orchard last week.

It's that time of year again when shorts go on sale, the kids are back to school, and redheads are in style and on the cover of every fall issue.  If you’re not careful you may, like many people, overlook the fact that beside your favorite variety of apples showing up at the grocery store, there are thousands of fresh apples hanging and just waiting to be picked at the orchard down the road. 

It’s been a yearly tradition to head to the farm with bags tucked under the arm and hands extended practicing the perfect twist-picking technique.  A smiling gapped-tooth farmer reminded us to go for the bright ones at the top – but not too near to the top as they’re the ones that get a little scorched.

With sage advice and enthusiasm we took to the fields and picked our 20 pounds of apples in no time.  

But what do you do with TWENTY pounds of apples?

You use them for cooking, baking, preserving, feeding the deer, and for a personal snack.  I’ve been adding to my apple recipes every year and  hope to make several new items this fall.  And if you’re wondering if more apple recipes will show up - the answer is of course!

What’s on the recipe list today?

I’ve decided to make a batch of APPLE BUTTER.  As a new venture into solo preserving (I’d always had the help of much wiser family members!) I thought I should tread lightly into a simple slow cooker recipe to get the hang of bottling and not do too many things at once.  

I did some extensive research on the internet for making apple butter and found a recipe from that I adapted. You will need a few kitchen tools to make this process a smooth one.

Tools you will need:
Slow cooker
Slap-chop like device
Apple peeler
Apple corer
Bottles (I chose to use mostly 250 ml simply to use as gifts later) enough to hold approximately 3.5 L.
Preserving tool kit – see photo!

What kind of apples to use?

I used Gala apples. You want something with a little sweetness to add a rich flavor to the batch. With this is mind – I didn’t want something sickly sweet so I cut my sugar in half of what the original recipe called for.  I’ve changed the amounts to what I found to be successful (and delicious!) below. Also, as a bonus, your house will smell of apples and cinnamon!

Apple Butter Recipe

Prep Time: Approximately 11 hours (don’t worry only about an hour of that is you getting things ready!)

5 ½  pounds apples - peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 cup of white sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼  tsp ground cloves
¼  tsp salt
¼ tsp allspice

Peel, core, and finely chop apples (this is the most laborious part I promise!)
Place the apples in a slow cooker.
In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and salt.
Pour the mixture over the apples in the slow cooker and mix well.
Cover and cook on high 1 hour.
Reduce heat to low and cook 9 to 11 hours, stirring occasionally (I stirred it every hour or two) until the mixture is thickened and dark brown.
Uncover and continue cooking on low 1 hour. Stir with a whisk, if desired, to increase smoothness. Spoon the mixture into sterile containers.

If you’ve never preserved anything before – it’s a little bit to get used to. Here’s what I did to prepare the bottles.

Bottle Preparation:
Wash and rinse the bottles in warm sudsy water.
Remove lids and rims and place to one side.
Dry jars and place on a cookie sheet.
Preheat oven to 300.
Place jars in oven for 10 minutes to sterilize.
Carefully remove jars and have them ready and hot for hot apple butter that will be placed in the jars. Don’t put hot butter into cold jars!
On a burner, in a medium saucepan with water just covering the snap lids, simmer (do not boil!).

There is a nice insulated gripper in that tool kit to grab the jars so you don’t burn yourself. Use with care!

Use the funnel to pour apple butter to about a ¼ inch from the top. Use the measuring stick from the preserving tool kit. Then place the other end directly in the middle of the butter to remove any air bubbles.

Make sure there’s no sticky jam around the top – if so wipe off. Then place the snap lid onto the jar with the magnetic stick from the tool kit (to avoid burning your hands).

Screw the top on just lightly – don’t cram it tight as it may ruin the seal.

Once all apple butter has been placed in jars and sealed you leave them out sitting rightside up until you hear them “pop” that they are sealed. You’ll be able to press on the top of the lid later to see if they all sealed properly. I had one that didn’t seal for some reason so I just put that one in the fridge to eat right away.

Then comes the part of how you want to individualize your jam label! You can get all kinds of stickers to place on the top of the bottle and place your jam/preserving item name and date on top – and if room anything else you want!

The apple butter turned out great and I’ve had it several times on toast! I hope that I can save a few bottles for Christmas gifts! I will definitely be preserving more in the future!

Apple Butter

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