Due to the popular demand, I hereby share with you an apple butter recipe you can make at home or during a block party. It is almost summer in the US, so you have plenty of time to plan and gather all the ingredients before October!
If you are in Australia, well, you are too late. The apple harvest has just finished for the season. The good news is that you have an entire year to plant apple trees, find a copper kettle and sew your very own bonnet.
If anyone happens to have a bunch of Pennsylvania Dutch people lying around, here is a traditional recipe from 1839.
“Cider for apple butter must be perfectly new from the press, and the sweeter and mellower the apples are of which it is made, the better will the apple butter be.
Boil the cider till reduced to one half its original quantity, and skim it well.
Do not use for this purpose an iron kettle, or the butter will be very dark, and if you use a brass or copper kettle, it must be scoured as clean and bright as possible, before you put the cider into it, and you must not suffer the butter to remain in it a minute longer than is actually necessary to prepare it, or it will imbibe a copperish taste that will render it not only unpleasant, but really unhealthy.
It is best to prepare it late in the fall, when the apples are quite mellow. Select those that have a fine flavor, and will cook tender; pare and quarter them from the cores, and boil them in the cider till perfectly soft, having plenty of cider to cover them well.
If you wish to make it on a small scale, do not remove the apples from the cider when they get soft, but continue to boil them gently in it till the apples and cider form a thick smooth marmalade, which you must stir almost constantly towards the last.
A few minutes before you take it from the fire, flavor it highly with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, and when the seasonings are well intermixed, put it up in jars, tie folded paper over them and keep them in a cool place.
If made in a proper manner, it will keep good more than a year, and will be found very convenient, being always in readiness.
Many people who are in the habit of making apple butter, take it from the fire before it is boiled near enough. Both to keep it well and taste well, it should be boiled long after the apples have become soft, and towards the last, simmered over coals till it gets almost thick enough to slice.
If you wish to make it on a large scale, after you have boiled the first kettle full of apples soft, remove them from the cider, draining them with a perforated ladle that the cider may fall again to the kettle, and put them into a clean tub.
Fill up the kettle with fresh apples, having them pared and sliced from the cores, and having ready a kettle of boiling cider, that is reduced to at least half its original quantity; fill up the kettle of apples with it as often as is necessary.
When you have boiled in this manner as many apples as you wish, put the whole of them in a large kettle, or kettles, with the cider, and simmer it over a bed of coals till it is so thick, that it is with some difficulty you can stir it: it should be stirred almost constantly, with a wooden spaddle, or paddle, or it will be certain to scorch at the bottom or sides of the kettle.
Shortly before you take it from the fire, season it as before directed, and then put it up in jars."
If you are without a spaddle or bed of coals, I have altered the above into a 12 Step recipe:
Step 1. Grab your Golden Girls DVD and put into DVD player. If you are looking for more of a pioneer atmosphere when making apple butter try watching Little House on the Prairie.
Step 2. Take two kilos (about 4.5 pounds) of apples, peel two of them and then sigh “Oh my god, there is no way I am peeling all these apples!” Fortunately, peeling the apples is optional.
Step 3. Quarter the apples and dump them in the slow cooker with ½ cup of apple cider, 3 cups sugar and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. Then stir to mix. I cannot get apple cider down here, so I used an organic and freshly pressed apple juice, with no added sugar.
Step 4. Put your slow cooker on high and cook apples for three hours.
Step 5. After three hours, turn the slow cooker on low and let cook for another 9 hours or so, stirring occasionally.
Step 6. Now take a small amount of the cooked apples and puree in blender or food processor until smooth. Put the processed apple mixture in a bowl and continue until all of the apples and juice are pureed.
Word of caution: When I made a pineapple panna cotta, I pureed the piping hot pineapple mixture and was rewarded by a blender exploding boiling hot pineapple all over my face (Note to Mr Show, JLo and Pumpkin Delight: No jokes please about hot liquids exploding in one’s face). Avoid this horrific experience by blending only a small amount of apples and lifting the lid every few seconds to let the steam escape.
Step 7. Once all of the cooked apples have been pureed, put back into the slow cooker and add more spices. I really enjoy the spicy bite of cinnamon so basically I dumped in an unspecified amount until I was happy with the taste.
Step 8. After the mixture is perfectly seasoned, cook on low for about 2 or 3 more hours, stirring occasionally.
Step 9. When finished, the apple butter should be extremely thick in texture and a deep brown in colour.
Step 10. At this point, you should realise that you failed to obtain any mason jars. Quickly dump out the commercial pasta sauce and strong pickled onions from their jars, thoroughly wash and dry said jars and fill with apple butter.
Step 11. I set the filled jars upside down for about an hour or two and when I turned them over, the lids miraculously sealed! This may work for you, although I cannot guarantee that this technique seals well enough to store outside of the refrigerator.
Step 12. The final step is to proudly announce your culinary achievement to your ungrateful family, who will then refuse to even take one small taste.
I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by orchards that produce fruit year round. Peaches, Nectarines, Persimmons, Pears, Apples and let us not forget my own orchard’s specialty: Plums.
My intention is to attempt a butter out of each and every one of these fruits as they are harvested.
Do you think I should start a local apple butter festival?