One of the best things about autumn in Southern Ontario is the harvest of so many different varieties of fruits and vegetables; it's so much fun getting all “pioneer-y” and canning and preserving and freezing and pickling nature’s bounty, knowing how much people will appreciate having those fresh tastes of summer all drizzly-grizzly winter long.
I always wanted to make my own apple butter, after using a store-bought version as a pie ingredient many moons ago. Apple butter is hella-expensive, and I thought, “well, how hard can it be for a Pastry Chef to make apple butter for so much cheaper?”
Thank goodness I was right! All apple butter needs, besides the right equipment to make it (which almost every kitchen has) and a couple of spices and whatnot, is TIME. The best apple butter lets the taste of the apples shine through (with a little spice for “kick”), and to achieve that, you need to render and evaporate out most of the water from the apples, which takes lots of time to simmer and bubble away.
So, if you have at least 4 hours, 4 lbs of cooking apples, a stove, and a big, heavy-bottomed pot, you too can make one of the best foods of the harvest, right in your own kitchen!
Note: This recipe will need the following equipment:
- An 8-quart (7.5L) thick-bottomed, wide mouthed saucepan (do NOT use a thin-bottomed stockpot or the extended cooking process will surely burn the sauce at the bottom of the pot)
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Silicone or other heat-resistant spatula, a ladle, and a strong wooden spoon
- Six to eight 8-ounce (250mL) canning jars
Extra equipment required:
- A food mill or a chinois sieve (these are recommended to make your life easier, but in a pinch you can rock it “old style” with a plain old metal strainer)
You will need:
- 4 lbs of cooking apples (the ones that go mushy when cooked: depending on your region and what is available in your area, I recommend Golden Delicious, Fuji, Cortland, McIntosh, or Gala), unpeeled and uncored, cut into quarters
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups water
- ~ 4 cups Sugar (see cooking instructions for specific amount)
- Pinch salt
- 1 ½ tsp cinnamon or cardamom
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
1. Cut any damaged parts out of the apples, then cut all into quarters, without peeling or coring them (much of the pectin is in the cores and flavour in the peels. Don’t worry about seeds. They’re okay too and everything will be strained out in the end).
2. Place cut apples into large pot; add the vinegar and water
3. Cover, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer; cook until the apples are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
1. Ladle hot apple mixture into a chinois, metal sieve, or foodmill, and force pulp from the chinois into a large bowl below.
2. Measure resulting puree. Add 1/2 cup of sugar for each cup of apple pulp. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add salt, cinnamon/cardamom, ground cloves, allspice, lemon rind and juice. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
1. Pour seasoned puree back into pot and cook uncovered on medium low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Scrape the bottom of the pot as you stir to ensure no crust forms at the bottom.
2. Cook puree until thick and smooth (about 1 to 2 hours). A small bit spooned onto a chilled plate should be thick, not runny.
3. If you are canning your apple butter, prepare your jars and lids 15 minutes before the puree is ready. Process jars for at least 10 minutes, then remove and let cool overnight.
Apple Butter is always great in pumpkin pie, butter tarts, spice cake, turnovers, or on some freshly toasted sweet bread.
When canned properly, it’s shelf stable for up to a year.