Apple Butter: Sweet vs. Sinful!

A gracious client of our store invited me to pick apples from a tree in her yard. It has been assaulting her home with fruit, and somebody ought to put a stop to that!

I’ve been feeling rather adventuresome with canning, so apple butter was what jumped to mind first. I had never tried or made it before, but read all kinds of hype about its deliciousness, and that’s really all it takes to get me excited. Apple butter is wonderful, and is so easy to make once you get through the laborious process of peeling/coring/cutting. It’s like apple sauce, but more condensed, with a thicker, spreadable consistency, and can also be flavoured with spices, and butters of other fruits can also be found as well. Pear butter and butternut squash butter are on my to-do list for fall, and nectarine butter must be had next summer!

I use apple butter on meat (it’s great on pork and chicken), toast, ice cream, yogurt, toss a little savoury ravioli in it and drizzle with olive oil, basically anything that would be fun to add a little hit of sweetness to. The apples I used were gala (an all-star in the kitchen that is sweet, bakes well and is crunchy), and the other type was very tart, with smooth, pale flesh. I have no clue what they were, and neither did my client, so they are now called Mystery Apples.

As sugar and acid (lemon juice) were added to the recipes to act as preservatives, I peeled the apples (but not the other fruit) as the peels are high in pectin, and I thought the butter might firm up and turn into a jelly of some sort. That would actually be fun to try one day this season (while apples are aplenty!), but wanted to tinker with these already-kinda-experimental recipes to see how they turned out: Some original recipes call for just apples and cinnamon, but I like to go a little crazy with flavour, in case you haven’t noticed yet.

Here I present two recipes: One is very lightly sweet, with a hint of warmth, and the other is darker, spicier, and exotic-tasting. My inspirations were a sweet, “All-Canadian” girl-next-door who bakes apple pies, and an indulgent, seductive courtesan (think Moulin Rouge!) who would sweep you off your feet with flavourful pleasure.

I’m trying to see how I like different formats (Recipes followed by pictures, this time), so please bear with me.

Summer’s Last Hurrah Apple Butter (yielded 6 cups and a little extra)

12 cups apples (peeled, cored, chopped into chunks. Here I used all Gala)

4 cups (combined and chopped) white nectarines and plums

1 cup pineapple juice

1/4 cup lemon juice

juice of one medium-sized orange

1/2 cup brown sugar (white or golden are also  good options)

1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon

Peel, core, and cut a LOT of apples! If you're really concerned about them browning, squeeze out 1/2 a lemon's worth of juice, throw it in half a cup of water, and toss to coat, but I don't care since these are going to get boiled and brown up anyway.) If it weren't for back-to-back Mythbusters episodes, this menial task would have been agonizing.

Get all of your canning equipment ready (see Tips below). Peel, core, and cut a LOT of apples! If you're really concerned about them browning, squeeze out 1/2 a lemon's worth of juice, throw it in half a cup of water, and toss to coat, but keep in mind that it'll change the flavour and you'll have to reduce the rest for the batch. I didn't care since these were going to get boiled and brown up anyway.) If it weren't for back-to-back Mythbusters episodes, this menial task would have been agonizing.

Squeeze enough lemon juice out for the recipe. Cheesecloth is fantastic. You'll find a ton of uses for it around the kitchen, including keeping stuff you don't want out of your food, and keeping your food together when you want to strain things out

Squeeze enough lemon juice for the recipe. Cheesecloth is fantastic. You'll find a ton of uses for it around the kitchen, like keeping stuff you don't want out of your food, and keeping your food together when you want to strain things out.

Throw the apples into a giant pot with the juice, crank the heat up to medium, and put a lid on it. When the apples start getting soft and the juice is frothy and boiling, add in the nectarines and plums. Stir occasionally to cook evenly.

Throw the apples into a giant pot with the juice, crank the heat up to medium, and put a lid on it. When the apples start getting soft and the juice is frothy and boiling, add in the nectarines and plums. Stir occasionally to cook evenly.

Add in the sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon. Continue to cook until the fruit becomes mushy, starts to break apart when you stir, and most of the liquid is boiled away.

Add in the sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon. Continue to cook until the fruit becomes mushy, starts to break apart when you stir, and most of the liquid is boiled away.

You can either work in batches and transfer the fruit to a milkshake blender to pureée until smooth, or use an immersion blender. My lovely boss gifted me with a Braun immersion blender, and what a fabulous thing it is, for someone who loves to cook and hates to clean!

You can either work in batches and transfer the fruit to a milkshake blender to pureée until smooth, or use an immersion blender. My lovely boss gifted me with a Braun immersion blender, and what a fabulous thing it is, for someone who loves to cook and hates to clean!

Now boil away more of the liquid until the purée becomes really thick. You will definitely want to use a splatter screen here!

Now boil away more of the liquid until the purée becomes really thick. You will definitely want to use a splatter screen here! Scrape it down, as well as the sides of the pot regularly.

You'll know it's ready when you dip in the spatula or a fork, turn it sideways, and it doesn't want to go anywhere.

You'll know it's ready when you dip in the spatula or a fork, turn it sideways, and it doesn't want to go anywhere.

Fill!

Fill! Allow proper headspace amounts

Poke! No air bubbles left.

Poke! No air bubbles left.

Wipe lid mouths off, seal and process. Adjust for altitude!

Wipe lid mouths off, seal and process. Adjust for altitude!

Done! Let them cool for 10 to 12 hours, with at least an inch of space between them. Write on the date or stick on a funky label, and store or share!

Done! Let them cool for 10 to 12 hours, with at least an inch of space between them. Write on the date or stick on a funky label, and store or share!

Options/Notes: Next time I make this it will probably be with white sugar. Brown sugar was used, because with cinnamon it says “hello, apple pie!” and the result does taste yummy, but the other ingredients are so light that white might match it better, like apple pie on a beach vacation. Another thing I would try is mixing half pineapple and half coconut juice, to make it even more interesting. Mmm! You can do this without cinnamon, too, but I like it.

Murder Mystery at the Elephant Gala Apple Butter (yielded just 7 cups, whew!)

Here the process is virtually the same, but with a few extra sassy ingredients, which you may have a peek at.

15 cups apples (peeled, cored, chopped into chunks. This one was about 12 cups Gala and 3 cups Mystery)

4 cups (combined and chopped) nectarines, peaches, dark red plums

1 cup pomegranate-blueberry juice (pomegranate alone is verrrrrrry sour!)

1/2 cup brown sugar (feel free to use a darker, stickier brown sugar like Muscovado, or add a tiny bit of molasses!)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tsp freshly crushed cloves (tied with kitchen twine into a tiny, 2-layered cheesecloth parcel)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon

The elusive, beautiful and tart Mystery Apple. My camera doesn't do juctice to the saturated, goregous glossy colour: It was so hot-pink-red, that I thought Dita Von Teese ought to wear this shade on her lips.

The elusive, beautiful and tart Mystery Apple. My camera doesn't do justice to the saturated, goregous glossy colour: It was so hot-pink-red, that I thought Dita Von Teese ought to wear this shade on her lips. I love washing dirt off of fresh fruit and veg.

I snagged these Elephant Heart plums at the Trout Lake Farmers' Market. With a name like that, how can you turn them down?

I snagged these Elephant Heart plums at the Trout Lake Farmers' Market. With a name like that, how can you turn them down?

I don't want to know what a real elephant heart looks like. It probably isn't as tiny or yummy as this plum.

I don't want to know what a real elephant heart looks like. It probably isn't as tiny or yummy as this plum.

A mortar and pestle was used to bash up these cloves, but you can put them in the cheesecloth (use a few layers) and bonk them with a hammer or something heavy from the freezer.

A mortar and pestle was used to bash up these cloves, but you can put them in the cheesecloth (use a few layers) and bonk them with a hammer or something heavy from the freezer. Tie it up tight, or else you'll have to sieve it!

The apples turned a really great shade of pink, thanks to the juice and plums.

The apples turned a really great shade of pink, thanks to the juice and plums. Add in the cloves and vanilla with your first ingredients in the pot, and remember to take out the bag!

Options/Notes: There’s a little more brown sugar in this one, in addition to the cloves and vanilla. I was looking for a richer colour and depth of flavour, and what’s fun about this one is that it smells like Christmas in a jar. Maybe one day I will make a batch similar to this but with just apples, juice, sugar and spices, and not all the other bright-tasting fruit, even though they are beautiful additions.

Tip: If you plan to make a lot of apple butter or cook apples all the time, do yourself a favour and invest in a corer, especially if you can find one that also cuts the fruit into wedges. There wasn’t time to visit a kitchen store between workdays, so I did all of these by hand and it took forever! Ouch! There is also a crank-turn device that you can pick up, and it will peel, core, and slice (into thin rings) any apple (or maybe even potatoes too!).

If you’re new to canning and need to learn all the basics, remember to check out this great All About Canning index from Pick Your Own.

Most of the jars I’ve filled so far were given away to friends and family (including the fantastic apple-sharing client), and some even were mailed away to the Northwest territories (does apple butter taste good on a moose steak?). I’m considering getting or making some fun stickers or labels made for canning. I get a silly kick out of the process of ordering/making things (not just when it comes to food!) and am pretty behind on a lot of projects, so leaving it to someone else might be a good option, or else going old-school and whipping out the sharpies, paper, and rubber cement. Yeehaw!

Eat well and share the love!

Kari

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This entry was posted in Canning, Gluten-free, Healthy, Sauces & Dressings, Spreads & Dips, Vegan, Vegetarian and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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