I love apples. In the fall when we can get them fresh from the farmers market, I eat them everyday. But eventually apple season moves on, and it’s up to our homemade apple butter to keep that fall flavor around a few more weeks. With the right tools, it’s not hard to make, and by preparing it ourselves we can have it just the way we like: neither too sweet, nor too spiced.
Apple Butter, 11/7/2014
- 8 lb Apples (mixed varieties are best)
- ½ cup Sugar (optional)
- 1 pinch Salt
- 2 tsp ground Cinnamon
- 1 tsp whole Cloves (ground)
- 1 tsp whole Allspice (ground)
- Wide (12″) straight sided sauté pan
- Splatter screen
- Food Mill
- Spice grinder (We use an old coffee grinder)
Throughly wash and scrub the apples, then chop into 1 inch pieces. No need to peel or core the apples, the stems and seeds are fine. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan (¾ cup), add the apples and cover. Bring to a boil and steam the apples over high heat for 15 minutes until very soft. Add additional water if needed. Separate the skins and seeds from the pulp by running the apples through a food mill. Use the screen with the largest holes that will still stop an apple seed. Move the apple sauce back to the pan. Grind any whole spices and sift through a small strainer. Add the salt, sugar and spices. Bring to a simmer and cover with the splatter screen. Simmer over the highest possible heat without scorching, stirring every 10-15 minutes, lowering the heat and stirring more frequently as the mixture thickens. Reduce until a wooden spoon dragged across the bottom of the pan leaves a clear path. Jar, allow to cool, and refrigerate.
Chopping the apples, stems, cores, seeds and all.
And into the pan. This 12″ x 3″ model is perfect – the wide shallow shape allows for much quicker evaporation.
With a lid on top, the apples quickly steamed into soft mush.
The food mill makes quick work of separating the skins and cores.
The prettiest pink apple sauce around. You could call it quits now, but we’re in this for the long haul.
Sifting the ground spices. Unexpected chunks of cloves are not what you want to run into in apple butter.
This is possibly the most important pieces of equipment in this entire recipe. To cook the apple sauce at a decent simmer means it will bubble like a cauldron of hot, sticky, apple-lava. It burns, it gets everywhere, it’s no fun to clean. The splatter screen takes care of all these problems. One word of advice: as the mixture thickens, use the splatter screen as a shield between you and the bubbling pan – stirring seems to anger the apple-lava-spirits, and it’s no fun having it splatter up in the direction of your face.
About half-way there. This was after about one hour of cooking.
Another hour and we’re done. The apple butter has a nice glossy shine and the wooden spoon dragged across the bottom of the pan leaves a clear trail.
All jarred up. This jar is from Ikea, I think it’s about 500ml / 1 pint. That’s some concentrated apples. The flavor is tart and fresh, and I love that it’s not too sweet.