Thursday, July 29, 2010

Apple Butter Time

Come along with me as I make a batch of crock pot apple butter. It doesn't get much easier than this. You start by making a big batch of apple sauce. Get your largest saucepan. Fill it 1/4 to 1/5 full of water. I think I filled mine about 1/5 this time, since apple butter needs to be quite a bit thicker than applesauce. Stir in 1 Tbs. lemon juice. Pick a whole lot of apples. I don't count them. I just quit once the pot is full. Wash the apples, cut them into quarters and remove the stems and most of the seeds. Don't worry if you miss some seeds, as they will be removed by the food mill. Add the prepared apples to the pot. Bring the water to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Stir the pot full of apples (and you want it very full) until the apples are cooked and falling apart.

When the apples are ready, place your food mill over a large bowl, ladle in some cooked apples, and crank for all you're worth.

When you've cranked out all the apple sauce, empty the peelings and other yucky stuff remaining in the mill, into another large bowl.

When your bowl of apple sauce gets full, empty it into your largest crock pot (I think mine holds 6 or 7 quarts) and start over. When all the apples have been milled your crock pot should look like this.

At this point all you'd need to do is add a couple cups of sugar, and you'd have applesauce. But we are going a step beyond that. You'll still add the 2 cups of sugar. But you'll also add 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ground cloves and 1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice.

Mix it all together well. Before you cover it to cook you'll want to put a couple of spacers between the pot and the lid, so the moisture can evaporate and the apple butter cooks down and gets thick. I use chopsticks.

Now cover it with the lid, set it on low, and leave it for a long, long time. I started mine early in the morning, and let it cook until late at night.

I took the lid off and stirred it every few hours, but that's not really necessary. You want it to be very dark and thick, not runny. Some recipes say it's done when a wooden spoon stands up in it, by itself....but I can get a wooden spoon to stand up in my applesauce, so I don't think that's a good indicator. You want it to be thick enough to spread on a biscuit or toast, and not run off or soak right in. This is what the finished product should look like.

My apple butter was actually finished last night but I was too tired to can it up. So I set the crock pot on warm, removed the spacers, replaced the lid and let it remain plugged in until this morning. Then I turned the heat up to high to make sure it was hot when I canned it. I then ladled it into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4" head space. I tightened the rings well and inverted the jars for 15 minutes then flipped them back over. They all sealed just fine. I now have 12 half pints of apple butter to add to my pantry.

I also have a partial jar to enjoy now. To celebrate, I baked a couple of loaves of fresh whole wheat bread.

How does some buttered toast with apple butter sound?

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