On a trip to the farmer's market Labor Day weekend, I couldn't resist the apple stand. I walked up intending to buy just a couple of apples, then ended up with a 7 pound bag of Zestar apples (an earlier-in-the-season cousin of the popular honey crisps). I guess I was going to have to can them, right? Apple butter is popular in our house, so that's what I decided to make. It was an unintentional, impulsive decision that I cannot explain. My hands put all of the apples in the bag, and my mouth told the farmer that I also needed a 1/2 gallon of apple cider.
I broke out my current favorite library book, Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry and turned to page 186 for Spiced Apple Butter.
In the summer I picked up a handy apple peeler/slicer/corer. I knew I was going to work with some apples in the fall, and I'm glad I bought it. It was easy and fun to use.
I took 6 pounds of the apples sliced, peel, and cored them, then boiled them in a pot with 2 cups of apple cider and 4 cups water.
UPDATE: I looked at the USDA's recommendation, and they used 2 cups of cider and 2 cups of vinegar. I'm wondering why vinegar instead of water? Does the cider alter the acidity to an unsafe level? How does the vinegar affect the taste? You can read the recommendation for yourself here on page 6: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/usda/GUIDE%202%20Home%20Can.pdf
ANOTHER UPDATE: I contacted my local extension office. I was told that, "The vinegar is added for flavor and may be omitted in fruit-based butters. The apple cider is also for flavor; in the applesauce [I had asked if it was ok to substitute cider for vinegar in applesauce] you can certainly use cider in place of water." Phew! My apple butter is safe! I'm wondering how the vinegar affects the taste. It doesn't sound appealing to me...
The apple cider was so delicious. I'm glad I made that impulse purchase.
After boiling the apples for about a 1/2 hour, I blended them with my immersion blender. I didn't puree them, I made them to be the consistency of applesauce (which, it technically was at this point).
After blending, the applesauce was poured into a slow cooker. 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp allspice and 1/2 tsp anise were added (and 1/2 tsp cloves would have been if I had some that were ground...).
I set the slow cooker to low, and put the lid on (but propped it open).
After about 12 hours, it was nice and thick. The color is dark because the sugar caramelizes a bit.
I processed the jars for 10 minutes in the waterbath canner.
If you've never had apple butter, I absolutely recommend it. It's great on peanut butter and apple butter sandwiches. There are also other great uses suggested in Canning for a New Generation: stir it into oatmeal, cottage cheese or yogurt; smear on hot biscuits, waffles, pancakes or French toast; mix it with mustard and use as a glaze for pork loin or ribs; use instead of frosting between spice cake layers.
If you are looking for other creative ways to use your jams/jellies/butters, check out this post by the Hungry Texan.
This post is a part of the Hearth 'n Soul Blog Hop.