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
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
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!).
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!