Even though it is still 96 degrees here, it is officially fall and I am going to behave as such.
My mother and father planted an orchard when we first moved to the farm in Virginia when I was in middle school. They planted it up on the great tall hill behind our house. It was a beautiful location, but the deer ravished the young trees every year, stripping them of leaves and tender branches. Finally, it was necessary to up root the entire orchard and plant it closer to the house (and our dogs) to prevent the deer from eating it all up! This set the trees back a few years on their path to maturity.
So it is now, about 11 years later, that the trees are bearing fruit. Two weekends ago, I picked buckets full of apples with my mother- finally enjoying the (literal) fruits of her labor. I made it home with two large bags full of Rome, Fuji and Golden Delicious apples. It is strange and quite nice to use fruit that is smaller and more blemished than you ever see in Kroger.
Apple Butter runs through my family's veins; every fall the relatives on my mother's side all join together and take turns stirring a massive pot over a bonfire in the Missouri countryside and come away with gallons and gallons of the smoothest, spiciest apple butter.
I wasn't quit up to an epic outdoor fire apple butter session with my two grocery bags of apples, but my friends Sara and Andrew (who are getting married in less than three weeks!!) told me about a fantastic Apple Butter recipe that they found on Simply Recipes, so I gave it a shot. Andrew added a secret ingredient that maybe I'll be able to share here eventually...
Yesterday I saw a pumpkin stand in town, and this morning I had apple butter on toast. Maybe fall will come to Augusta after all.
Apple Butter, adapted from Simply Recipes
4 pounds of apples, chunked, damaged parts removed (but not cored or peeled, because those parts add pectin and flavor.)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2.5-4 cups sugar (1/2 cup for every cup of puree the apples produce)
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t cloves
1/2 t allspice
zest and juice from 1 lemon
large pot for boiling apples and then jars
large deep pan for boiling down apple puree
canning jars and lids
canning funnel (optional)
Put the apples in the large pot, add the apple cider vinegar and enough water to cover them. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Boil until the apples are soft, about 20 minutes.
Mashed the apples and press through the sieve, or puree in a blender or food processor and then sieve. Measure the cups of puree into the large deep pan and add 1/2 cup sugar for every cup of puree. Add a dash of salt, the spices and the lemon juice. Adjust spices to taste.
(Other spice idea: I have recently read about cardamom apple butter, which I am definitely going to try next time I make it, because cardamom is pretty much the best spice ever.)
Cook uncovered on low heat for 1-3 hours until desired consistency is reached. Stir very often. I probably cooked mine down more than I had to (after only an hour); mine is very thick and I only got 2 and a half half-pint jars. You might even get double that if you stop sooner. The more you stir, the faster the apple butter will thicken because it will help the moisture evaporate.
Make sure to prepare your canning set up well before the apple butter is done cooking down.
I would read though proper canning techniques as improperly canned foods can make you sick or dead.
this is a good link:
Because Apple Butter and jams have such a high sugar I use a method that involves sterilizing my jars in boiling water that completely covers them for at least ten minutes and quickly pouring hot jam into hot jars and quickly lidding them with hot lids (making sure to wipe the top of the jar with a clean towel before lidding it.) As the jars cool, they will seal themselves.
I would research canning thoroughly before deciding what method to use, but I've never had any problems canning jam in this way.
Somehow, apple butter tastes both deep and spicy, but also super fresh. Kind of like apple cider. I think this is best way to use apples, maybe even better than pies and tarts (but you be the judge, I'm posting an apple pie recipe soon.)