I've been making small batches of preserves, just a few jars here and there to preserve summer's bounty. Small batches because I have a small kitchen and only short bursts of time without a curious toddler clinging to my legs (not a good position to be in when dealing with boiling hot sugary substances.) But three jars here and four there have added up into a pretty, happy abundance of jams, jellies, and fruit butters from blackberries, plums, pears, and apples, all grown right here on our land.
And just in time as I woke up a few days ago to a blustery day with that distinct golden light that signals autumn has arrived. What a simple pleasure to spoon sweet spiced apple butter into the morning's oatmeal, a cozy and sweetly scented way to enjoy the turning of the seasons. And it couldn't be easier -- really! -- just throw some apples in a pot, cook them down, blend and add sugar and spices.
A few notes on the following recipe: Fruit butters do not contain any butter -- they are simply fruit purees cooked until some of the liquid evaporates and the flavors concentrate. They do not use added pectin so they do not set up as much as jams or jellies but also do not require as much sugar. They are delicious as a spread on toast, stirred into yogurt or hot cereals, or as a filling in bar cookies. And of course they can be used in baking to replace some of the oil or butter in your favorite quick bread or bar cookie recipes.
Spiced Apple Butter
I wanted a simple and quick method of making this butter so I didn't peel or core the apples. Since the peels and cores have most of the apples' naturally-occurring pectin, this has the added benefit of creating a firmer jell. You will need a pretty high-powered blender to break down the peels and cores, a food processor is just not going to cut it. I use my immersion blender, it's scary powerful. If you don't have a worthy blender or you are just turned off by the idea of seeds in your apple butter, you're going to want to at least core the apples and probably peel them as well.
I've canned the apple butter, but you could also just put it in a jar in the fridge (for up to three weeks) or in the freezer (for longer.)
4 pounds mixed apples, stem and blossom ends cut off
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
2 cups sugar (adjust to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1.) Put apples, vinegar, and water in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil and cover. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until apples are soft and breaking apart, 20 to 30 minutes.
2.) Blend apples with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender. Return to pot and stir in sugar and spices. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered until thick (15-30 minutes,) stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot regularly to prevent sticking or burning. I do this part while cooking dinner -- I'm in the kitchen already and can just reach over and give the pot a stir from time to time.
3.) To refrigerate or freeze: put in jars and cool.
To can: your grandmother probably just put her fruit butters in sterilized jars and screwed on the lids, but current safe canning practices recommend canning in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Lots of good information and instructions can be found here and here.