We inherited a rather fantastic apple tree on our property in Woodacre. At some point in time it was grafted with four different types of apples, so that each section of the tree shows a distinct personality. I have no clue what the varieties are, but one wears red stripes like a Gala, another is honeyed and soft, and a third crunchy and bright...a Gravenstein? When this tree gives, she gives. Late summer found me struggling to find creative ways to preserve the bounty. Jar upon jar of applesauce line the shelves next to snappy, cinnamon laced apple chips from the dehydrator. The most alluring transformation, however, happened in a big, sticky pot of apple butter.
These are the steps to making apple butter:
For 6# of apples
1. Chop apples into 1 inch chunks. I cut around the core, but leave the skin on. These will come out in step three.
2. Cook apples down with 2 cups apple cider and 4 cups water in a large pot until the skins separate and they are very soft.
3. Cool slightly. Run through a food mill or Victorio strainer. I recently bought mine, and between tomatoes and apples, it is worth it.
4. Put the pureed apples into a large bowl. Add 1-2 TB of sugar per each cup of applesauce. I adjust based on how sweet my apples are.
5. Also add spices - 1/2 tsp of each - whichever ones you like: cinnamon (up to 1 TB), cloves, allspice...
6. For a nice smooth apple butter, use a handheld blender to smooth out the mixture. This is an extra step, but I really like the results.
7. Final cook -
The first time I did this in the oven set to 250 or the lowest possible temperature. I set my large Le Creuset pot in there, uncovered, and cooked it for 5 hours. Stirring every 20-30 minutes. Kind of a pain in the butt.
The second time around I used a crock pot to huge success. Set to the low temperature, I cooked the apple butter, stirring when I could, for 12 hours. The final butter should be a deep, dark caramel color. Keep the lid slightly ajar on the crock pot using a wooden spoon or chopstick. This will allow the liquid to evaporate.
Either way you do it, the smells that fill the house are so warm, cozy, sweet and spicy that I found it drummed up memories, real or imagined, of snowy winter days, hot toddies and pine forests. Mostly imagined here in the Bay, aside from the hot toddy! I've given it to friends who say they spread it on toast, stir it into yogurt and eat it alongside an aged gouda. Hopefully we have us enough to last us through the year, and I can't wait to do it again next harvest.