Fall is here…my favorite time of year…
As the leaves begin to change colors and the air takes on a crispness, apples begin to ripen and pumpkins become engorged. It is the perfect time for all those fall favorites: caramel apples, pumpkin pie, butternut squash soup and whatever else one may look forward to during the autumn season. My apple trees were bursting with ripe fruit this weekend so it was time to use some of their bounty for apple butter.
Approx. 30 tart baking apples
Approx. 10 crab apples (optional) – these have natural pectin which can be used as a thickening agent
Sugar – 2+ cups to taste
Cinnamon – 5-7 Tbs. to taste
Cloves – 2-4 Tbs. to taste
Allspice – 1-2 Tbs. to taste
Approx. ¼ c. Lemon juice - used as more of an acidifier, especially if canning
These are really optional, but they can make the job easier.
Apple Peeler or a Paring Knife – this is dependent upon personal preference
Gather and wash the apples:
Peel the apples.
Core the apples.
Cut the apples into eighths. These look extra juicy because they were drizzled with a little lemon juice so they wouldn’t brown as fast. You can just cut the crab apples in half or quarter them depending on their size. It is just important to make sure all pieces are similar in size so that they cook at the same rate.
Place apple pieces into a large stock pot. Add approximately 6 cups of water, turn the heat on very low so the natural fruit sugar, fructose, won’t scorch. Similar to making mashed potatoes.
Cook the apples until they are soft. Once they are soft and falling apart, strain out the water.
Put the apples through a ricer, blender or food processor to remove all the lumps. The crab apples may add a pinkish hue to the mix, so don’t worry if it starts changing colors.
Continue cooking the pureed apple mixture until it has thickened to a spreading consistency.
Add sugar, start with approximately 2 cups, the amount of sugar will really be dependent upon what type of apples are being used and the desired sweetness of the apple butter. Continue to add sugar until you are satisfied with the flavor. Add in approximately 5-7 tablespoons of cinnamon. Again, add more or less depending on preference. Most recipes call for cloves and/or allspice. I used both, but split my batch into two; one with allspice and one without.
In order to prevent bacterial growth it is wise to add about ¼ cup of lemon juice, this will act as an acidifier, which is especially important if canning.
At this stage the apple butter is essentially finished and may be stored in the refrigerator in containers if it will be used within 3-4 weeks. However, if you plan to store the apple butter for a longer time period (up to a year), then it is recommended that you can those portions.
Canning the apple butter
Using 1 dozen pint size jars with lids and rings – wash everything in HOT soapy water. Rinse thoroughly in HOT water.
Place jars, rings, lids, tongs and ladle (or whatever you might use to get the jars out of the boiling water and the apple butter into the jars) in water making sure all items are completely submerged and bring to a boil. Boil 15 minutes in order to ensure sterilization. This will also prevent the jars from cracking when adding in the hot apple butter.
Remove one jar at a time with the sterile tongs and add in the apple butter. Wipe the rims and tops with a clean towel if you spill any. Immediately put the lid on with the tongs (because they are super hot), get the ring out and screw it down tightly with a towel…once again they are HOT. I made the mistake of grabbing onto things without a towel and learned my lesson, not once, but SEVERAL times. Repeat this process until all the jars have been filled.
Once all the jars have been filled and sealed tightly, submerge all the jars upright in water. Bring to a boil for about 10-15 minutes, this is to ensure they seal properly.
After they have boiled, take them out and let them cool. It is best to leave them on a counter, untouched for 12 hours. Do not move them around or shake them; it will disrupt the preserving procedure and you don’t want someone to get botulism!