Today I channelled my inner Laura Ingalls and put up some apple butter. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, which I cannot understand. It’s delicious on toast and muffins and over baked brie. All appley and spicy, autumn on a spoon. The base for this particular recipe originally came from my friend Lin’s preserving book (the name of which escapes me but I will find!). It has hard cider in it, for crying out loud! What’s not to like?! And no, there is no butter in apple butter. Why they don’t call it apple jam is a mystery to me.
Be warned! This is a sticky business, making apple butter. Your kitchen will get sticky in places you didn’t even touch. Just accept it. You will need:
5 cups hard cider
1.5 pounds cooking apples, peeled and sliced (Granny Smith, Gravenstein, McIntosh, Johnagold, etc)
1.5 pounds eating apples, peeled and sliced (Golden Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Winesap)
zest and juice of a lemon
a bunch of sugar
1/2 tea cinnamon
1/2 fresh nutmeg
Put the cider in a big heavy pan and boil til reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Add the apples and lemon juice and zest. Cover and cook til the apples are soft, about 2o-30 minutes. When they are mashable, press them through a colander to make a puree (the recipe says to use a non-metallic sieve, which I do not have; hence the colander). Measure the puree by cups; you’ll be putting 3/4 cup of sugar back into the pot for every 1.5 cups of puree. Also add the cinnamon and nutmeg. I also added a pinch of chili powder for a little heat and to cut the sweetness.
Cook with a gentle boil til it thickens – should be thick enough to spread, but remember it will thicken a bit more as it cools, at least 35-45 minutes. Stir it once in a while at the beginning, and more often as it thickens. At the end, stir constantly. Honestly, the hardest part of this whole thing is knowing when it’s “thick enough”. The original recipe says it should be the consistency of sour cream, which is whackadoodle. I was worried I pulled it off too soon, but it set up nicely once it cooled. Once it was thick enough to decently coat the back of a wooden spoon, I called it good. Ladle into warm, clean jars and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath (assuming you have canning skillz; if not, ask and ye shall receive). Let it sit for a few days before using.
I doubled the recipe, since it’s a lot of work for 4 jars. You will have to increase the cooking times if you do this as well. Seems like it takes FOREVER to thicken a double batch. You’ll end up with about 9 half-pint jars if you double it.
De-stickify your kitchen. Enjoy your apple butter on a cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese.