Nothing says “autumn” like homemade apple butter. For me, it is as much a part of this season as fall leaves, crisp mornings and delectable pumpkin pie.
Apple butter is like a rich cousin to applesauce. It is thicker, more concentrated and oh, so decadent. It can be used as a side dish (like apple sauce), sandwich spread (great with ham and turkey), as a baking substitute to reduce fat in a recipe or as a topping for your morning toast.
But my all time favorite way to eat apple butter is with a spoon, right out of the jar!
I make apple butter with my own homegrown apples (Anna, Dorsett, Fuji and Beverly Hills), but you can certainly use any cooking apple such as Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, McIntosh or Winesap. Better yet, use a mixture of sweet and tart apples to create something really spectacular.
Although homemade apple butter is traditionally a labor-intensive process, modern technology (namely, a Crockpot) can make it really easy. You start with a little over a dozen apples and slow cook them over a 24-hour period in the Crockpot. Then you measure and add the appropriate amount of sugar and spices before filling your canning jars and processing.
It really is that simple.
The best part? For 24 hours, your entire house will be filled with the wonderful aromas of apples, spices and of course…autumn memories.
12 – 14 apples
2 cups apple juice
Wash, but do not peel, then core and quarter all the apples. Combine the prepared apples with the juice in a lightly oiled crock-pot. Cover and cook on LOW for 10 – 18 hours or on HIGH for 2 – 4 hours.
When the fruit is tender, put it through a food mill to remove the peel. Measure the strained fruit and return it to the crock-pot. For each pint of cooked fruit add 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon each allspice and cardamom. Stir well. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 hours, stirring occasionally, then remove the cover and continue to cook 3 – 5 more hours until thick enough to mound up on a spoon.
Spoon the hot apple butter into hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. If necessary add more hot apple butter to maintain 1/4 inch headspace. Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. (For more information on the water bath method and canning, visit my article on “Water Bath Basics 101”)
Remove jars from the canner to cool. Check seals. Store sealed jars for up to one year on the pantry shelf. Any unsealed jars need to be stored in the refrigerator and used with in 2-3 weeks.
Freezing: If you do not wish to process the apple sauce for pantry storage, you can freeze it. It keeps very nicely this way. Just ladle into freezer safe jars, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace (for expansion). Cover, label and freeze. Use within 6 months for best results.
Makes approximately 5 to 6 half-pints.
Theresa Loe is the Co-Executive Producer of Growing A Greener World. She is trained as a Master Food Preserver and is an expert in city homesteading, home preservation and educational gardens/gardening with children. She also blogs about homesteading at LivingHomegrown.com