Apple butter is one of those quintessential recipes for me that evoke feelings of old-fashioned cooking, grandmothers cooking away over the stove, and perhaps skills lost in favor of modern cooking. But it does not need to be a forgotten thing. And I have to tell you. The difference between home made apple butter and that sludge you buy at the market is worlds apart. So gather up a peck or two of your favorite apples and give it a try. It cooks a long time, but really is simple.
I woke up this morning in dismay, realizing that it is the first workday in September. Where did the summer go? It really does feel like time passes ever faster each year. (Secret!) I don’t always drink coffee in the mornings, because it makes me feel hot (and not in a sexy way!) But today I woke up, made coffee and curled into my cozy chair with my cuppa joe and pulled and afghan up around me to chase away the chill.
Yes, you read that right. The CHILL.
And right now I can imagine Sean Bean from Game of Thrones saying “Brace yourselves. Winter is coming.” (along with everything else cool weather related, including pumpkins, apples, soups, stews, chili, and oven roasted veggies like butternut squash.)
Ah, now I feel better thinking about all that. I DO love the summer, love the green, love the heat, but sometimes it is nice to turn off the a/c and breathe fresh air. And like an alarm going off, curled up within my afghan, I am reading that someone has a blog challenge going on, and I think “Cookies!” Just what I need. An enabler for that depression-era, big band listening, apron-clad bake-a-holic inside of me to get out.
Bad for my hips. (But good for you, dear reader.) And then like ripples in a pool…it will be your turn. HA!
A few months ago I made up my first batch of apple butter of the season. (What!?!? MONTHS ago?)
Yes, I did. It is a secret of mine, that the kind of apples I prefer to make apple butter with come into season at the beginning of July. I like using Lodi or Transparent apples. There is not much else one can do with them, besides perhaps making applesauce. And since my daughter, being the applesauce eater, is grown, there is not much use for it. But apple butter. Ah yes. I can smear that onto any number of things toasted or cooked up in the mornings, not to mention using it in baking. As apples go, Lodis and Transparents are cooking apple varieties, while at the same time having a nice sweet flavor. And being early season apples, they can give you a head-start on your home canning schedule. Just be aware that these kinds of apples do not store as long as other varieties, so you really need to cook them up soon after getting them into the kitchen.
But don’t fret if you can’t find Lodi apples or Transparents. I get them from an orchard, living in that part of the country established by Johnny Appleseed. In Ohio, we have apples everywhere. (Everywhere they are not growing corn! Ha!) And if you are a bit late to get early season apples, the season does go on and the sun also rises for those wanting to make apple butter in August, September and October. Apples such as Jonathan, Northern Spy, Cortlands, Ida Reds, and MacIntosh can all be used to make apple butter. Generally, any kind of apple good for sauce works well. There may be different kinds of apples growing in your area, and also, different apples have different flavors. Some are sweet, some are tart, some are spicy. But once they cook tender, and are pureed in a food mill they will all be good. I do love the flavor of MacIntosh and as a cooking apple for pies it is terrible! They practically dissolve in heat. But for making apple sauce and apple butter they are also tops, and can be found everywhere, i think.
The type of apple butter I make is generally sugar-free, and I know some of you out there are teetotalers when it comes to sugar substitutes. If you like, go ahead and use sugar. Since I am diabetic, I wouldn’t get to eat much of it if I did that, so there it is. If you want to use another kind of sweetener, like agave syrup, stevia, or a natural sweetener like honey or raw sugar, I think it will work well. Sugar actually has some preservative properties to it that help keep things canned longer, but even using other sweeteners, your apple butter should still be shelf stable for a very long time. And the sugar isn’t needed to help anything come together in the recipe, outside of sweetening it, so I wouldn’t worry about that. It’s all good.
- 6 quart canning jars, or 12 pint canning jars, or 24 half-pint canning jars
- appropriate bands and NEW canning lids for jars (do NOT reuse old ones)
- water bath canner or large enough stock pot
- canning rack
- canning jar funnel
- jar lifter
- bubble freer
- magnetic lid wand
- apple peeler/corer (optional)
- foley food mill
- splatter screen (type used for frying pans)
- Assemble your equipment.
- Inspect all your canning jars for cracks or imperfections and lids and bands for little dents or rust. Don’t use any that have defects.
- Thoroughly cleanse all your equipment with soap and water and keep sterile by holding in hot water until needed.
- 1/2 bushel fresh Lodi, Transparent, or other apples suitable for cooking
- 3 cups Splenda granular or other sweetener
- Cinnamon, Allspice, Cloves, and Nutmeg (amounts to taste and use in amounts in descending order) Start small and add until you like it
- apple cider, apple juice, or water, as needed
- Rinse your apples and discard any bad ones; pull off stems.
- You can pare your apples if you wish; I don’t pare the Transparent/Lodi apples, but be aware that if you use red apples, keeping the peel can turn your butter slightly pink. If you do pare your apples, use a hand cranked apple peeler/corer. You don’t need to core the apples.
- Chop or quarter the apples and place them in a heavy dutch oven or large pot with some apple cider, apple juice or water (enough to help the apples cook and keep them from sticking).
- Cook apples until they become tender and allow to cool somewhat.
- Place apples in a foley food mill over a large mixing bowl and crank it until the apple pulp is pureed. Discard any remaining solids in the mill. You may need to do this several times, removing the solids so they don’t jam the mill. Congratulations. You just made apple sauce!
- Place the sauce back into the pot and stir in the spices and sweetener to your taste.
- Cook/ simmer the apple sauce over low heat, stirring frequently, more as it thickens (it will begin to spit like lava from a volcano) and covering with a splatter screen as it gets thick.
- When the apple butter can mound on top of a teaspoon, it is thick enough to can.
- Heat enough water in your water bath canner to cover the canning jars by at least one inch. Heat it to very hot, but not quite boiling.
- Place the funnel on top of a canning jar and ladle in enough butter until you have a half inch of room (head space) to the top of the jar. Wipe off any spillage from the rim before adding the lid.
- Use the magnetic wand to put the lid onto the jar, then place the band/ring on the jar and tighten it up.
- Repeat with more jars until you have enough to fill the canner (don’t overfill the canner as jars bumping together while being processed are more likely to break).
- Using the jar lifter, lower the jars into the hot water, making sure they are covered with an inch of water.
- Increase the heat on the canner and when it reaches a rolling boil, time your jars being processed. Watch the heat and turn it down just a touch to keep water from boiling over.
- How long should you boil them?
For making apple butter, the base time is 15 minutes for half-pint jars and 20 minutes for larger ones.
Also, you have to add in extra time according to your elevation.
- Sea level-1000 feet elevation – no additional time needed
- 1000-3000 feet elevation – add 5 minutes to the base time
- 3000-6000 feet elevation – add 10 minutes to the base time
- 6000-8000 feet elevation – add 15 minutes to the base time
- 8000-10,000 feet elevation – add 20 minutes to the base time
So if you live at 5000 feet elevation and are using pint jars, the processing time will be 30 minutes. Got that? Good.
16. Once the processing is finished, remove the jars carefully from the canner and place onto a towel, and blot up any excess water.
17. Allow the jars to cool. If they have sealed properly, the raised area on the lid will disappear and you will not be able to push it down with your finger. You may also hear it ping as well, but sometimes you may not hear it. All properly sealed jars may have the bands removed at this point, as they are not necessary, but you may opt to keep it on there to protect the lid from accidentally being pried off. Any jars which have not properly sealed must be reprocessed or refrigerated. Store properly sealed apple butter in a cool dry place.