Around this time of year, if you can eat it, drink it, or smell it, chances are, you can find it with pumpkin in it. But there’s another great fall-to-winter flavor that doesn’t get nearly as much attention: apple. Toss on a little cinnamon and sugar, and you’ve already got the makings of a fantastic holiday snack, not to mention an amazing yuletide aroma. So in honor of the holiday season’s most underappreciated fruit, I want to share with you my very favorite apple recipe: apple butter. It’s a thick, sweet, cinnamony apple spread that’s great on just about any bread product (bread, biscuits, muffins, pancakes, on sandwiches, you name it!), mixed into your morning oatmeal or cottage cheese, or even as a glaze for pork, ham, or turkey. So how do you make it?
All great apple butter starts with great applesauce – and while you can use your favorite store bought brand, it’s actually easier than you might think to make your own. Unless you want a huge amount (in which case you probably want to make it on the stove or in a crock pot), you can prepare a whole batch in about 10 minutes in the microwave.
What You Need:
6 of your favorite apples (or 3 each of two types), peeled, cored, and quartered.
1 cup unfiltered apple juice (or water, in a pinch)
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in a sealable microwave safe container, leaving one corner slightly open to vent, and microwave for ten minutes. Then, mash with a Potato Masher or Immersion Blender (or your blender or food processor for a smoother texture).
Now that you’ve got your applesauce, you want to reduce it. Again, this is something that can be done painstakingly over a hot stove over a several hour period of time. Personally, I prefer to go the low maintenance route and stick my applesauce in a crock pot. Depending on how much apple butter you want to make, you can scale this recipe (or the apple sauce one) up or down. Personally, I like to do small batches in my Lil’ Dipper 16 oz crock pot unless I’m planning on giving some away, or need to use a lot of apples. Canned, it has a long shelf life – but a lot of jars take up a lot of space!
What You Need (for a big recipe): ……. for a little one
9 quarts fresh made apple sauce* ……………….. 1 quart
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon ………………….. 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon ground cloves……………………………… generous pinch
1/2 teaspoon allspice……………………………………. dash
4 cups sugar………………………………………………… scant half cup
*technically you can use 5 1/2 lbs chopped apples instead of apple sauce, but it will take MUCH longer to cook.
Fill your crock pot (any size) almost all the way full with apple sauce, then stir in all other ingredients, reserving about half the sugar. Using butter knives, chop sticks, Bamboo Skewers, or some other means of your own invention, keep the lid of your crock pot slightly elevated over your pot, or slid off to one side, to allow the steam to vent and the apple sauce to reduce. Keep the surrounding area covered, as the apple mixture will splash as it bubbles, and stir it periodically to encourage evaporation and prevent sticking.
Once your apple butter is thoroughly reduced (a few hours for a small batch or running the pot on high, overnight on low or for a larger quantity), add the remaining apple sauce and reserved sugar, and cook again (with the lid still displaced) until the apple butter reaches the desired consistency. Bring it back to a boil (setting your crock pot to high for 15 minutes should do the trick), then spoon what you want to use immediately into a sterile glass or Plastic Container, cover, and refrigerate, and add the rest to hot, sterilized Canning Jars and prepare them in your Canner according to your manufacturer’s instructions.
Homemade apple butter makes a great addition to just about any holiday meal. Whether as a breakfast mix-in, a sandwich spread, a glaze for your roast beast, or just a drizzle on your dessert, one dollop will add a succulent sweet something that will have your family and friends begging for another taste. And, okay, I’ll admit it – if you’re a real pumpkin stickler, you can do the same thing with pumpkin puree to get a yummy, spreadable pumpkin butter, too!
Do you prefer apple or pumpkin during the holiday season? Or are you like me, and wouldn’t mind a little of both?