I now LOVE thick rich apple butter. A couple of weeks ago on Facebook I said this in a post: Trying my hand at making apple butter. I’ve never made this before. It will cook for 24-36 hours. If it tastes bad, at least my house will smell like heaven. Why did I decide to make apple butter? Well, despite the blight that came to many Colorado apple trees this year, causing leaves to wither and dry, the apples were fine. In fact, it has been an bumper apple crop all over town. I have friends begging me to adopt their apples. But, I have a tree of my own. It was dropping apples like manna from heaven, leaving many to rot on the ground.
I don’t like wasting food so I worked hard to harvest them, using my new apple picker (wondering why I had waited so long to get one of these great tools). I did end up at a friend’s home grabbing another variety off her tree as well. I washed, peeled and froze a gazillion apples. I gave some away. But I still had apples left in my kitchen sink.
When I decided to try making thick rich apple butter I found several recipes on the web, combining three of them into one. Then I wrote my Facebook post about my trial, one that I thought might end in error. So I said, “If it tastes bad at least my house will smell like heaven.” Several Colorado Backyard Garden members replied with encouragement saying things like, “How can apple butter be bad?” Obviously many of you knew better than I did (one reason I started this site is so I might learn from all of you — I’m selfish that way.) In case you are wondering, my house did smell like heaven. And….drum roll please…
Apple butter can’t be bad!
BUT…in some cases, I think it can be better so you’ll have to keep reading on what I think makes it better…so read on. But before I get ahead of myself let me say, that thick rich apple butter is now my new favorite thing to make. And making apple butter gave the Flanders a great chance to take a pretty picture of the end result. Look at this one my personal chef took! Gah! So pretty. Maybe I’ll frame this. (Side note: A great spiritual discipline is to pay attention to beauty by taking pictures. It will help find sustain and nurture a rooted hope.
I examined (and tried) some recipes and discovered that one simply needs to throw a few ingredients in some kind of pot and have an extended period of time to let it simmer. A crock pot works great as it needs less tending. It should be on a day you’ll be putzing around the house doing other piddly things. The manner in which I will mostly likely make apple butter in the future is below. Scroll down if you’d like to use it. Or, go search the web for recipes. There is even one that uses store bought apple sauce that my friend Tracey says is really good.
I do have one “must have” when it comes to apple butter and not all recipes attend to this. I am now picky about apple butter in that I truly want it THICK and RICH. I want to reach into the jar with my knife and have it stay on my knife. I want a mound of thick rich apple butter, not a runny slater. I don’t want a smidgen of this stuff sliding off the transport device (toast, muffin, cracker…whatever)! Thick works for me. So my piece of advice is to let it cook down, let most of the water cook out of it.
If you are a regular reader here you have learned that I believe in engaging in healthful activities that help remind us that heaven and earth are colliding. The Lord is already here, present WITH us as we wait for the final culmination. In the meantime, as we live on this side of the brand spanking new heavens and new earth, these healthful activities are often a beautiful mess. “Take a picture of that,” exclaimed my sister as I was peeling the apples. It was sticky, messy AND beautiful.
“Use the peels in the picture,” she so artfully suggested as we snapped pictures. Even the peels were beautiful (some cooks leave the peels on when they make apple butter). The point is this:
You have to go through the mess, the stickiness and the waiting to get to the thick rich apple butter. Dare I say that there is a lot in life that is like this? Gifts are worth waiting for and there is beauty in the waiting. Look for it. It’s there.
- 6½ pounds of peeled, cored sliced apples (weighed after peeling, coring and slicing). This is equivalent to 12-15 large or 18-21 medium or 24-27 small apples).
- 1-1½ cups of white sugar
- 1-2 cups of brown sugar
- 2-4 TB of cinnamon (I started with 2 and then kept adding more to taste.)
- 2-3 tsp of cloves (I started with 2 and then added more to taste.)
- 1-2 tsp of nutmeg (I started with 1 and then added more to taste.)
- 1-2 tsp of vanilla (I added the second tsp right before it was done cooking).
- ¼ tsp of salt
- Peel, core and slice the amount of apples from above ingredients that will first fit in your crock pot (no matter what size you have). These will cook down and you will add more later.
- Mix 1 cup of white sugar, 1 cup of brown, 2 TB of cinnamon, 2 tsp of cloves, 1 tsp of nutmeg, ¼ tsp salt. Add this to the apples and mix up a bit.
- Add 1 tsp of vanilla to the apple/sugar mixture.
- Turn your crock pot on low and cook for 10-12 hours, stirring a few times here and there.
- The apples will cook down. Add the rest of your apples (picture one).
- Cook for another 8 hours on low heat, stirring on occasion.
- At this point the apples are fairly cooked down but you want it smoother than this picture (picture two).
- With an immersion blender, puree and blend until smooth like picture three.
- If you don't have an immersion blender you can also use a blender (in small portions), adding it back to the crockpot when done.
- After blending, remove lid and cook out more of the liquid for another 2-3 hours to the thickness that you desire (I like it thick so I cooked it down for 3, maybe 4). At this stage you need to keep your eye on it.
- After it is done, you can store in jars in the fridge for 3 weeks, in jars in the freezer for a year or you may can in a water bath (if you know how to can).