The peaches and nectarines we picked a couple of weeks ago are long gone, so I gathered up the measly few Ginger Gold apples left from my Highland Orchards adventures and decided to make a batch of apple butter. Clearly underestimating how long the fresh-picked fruit would last, I high-tailed it back to the orchard to get more apples and check out the raspberries (about a week too early). I brought home another 6 or 7 pounds of apples, more than enough to make apple butter and have some left to eat straight from the fridge. Turns out, we love the sweetness and touch of tart/spice of these short-season beauties. Grown first in Virginia near the Blue Ridge Mountains, these pale yellow apples that sometimes have a red patch on the skin are related to the Golden Delicious and Albemarle Pippin apples, according to the Virginia Apple Board.
The recipe I used comes from Simply Recipes (http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/apple_butter/), and it’s easy to follow with a great result. I made a few small changes to the recipe (which I’ve noted parenthetically in the ingredients list and in the directions). Rather than canning the butter as the recipe suggests, I decided to refrigerate one container and freeze the other three. If you prefer to can the butter, refer to the directions in the link.
(adapted slightly from the Simply Recipes blog)
4 pounds of apples suitable for cooking, Granny Smith or Gravenstein (I used the Ginger Gold apples, same weight)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
sugar, about 4 cups per directions (I used about 2¼ cups of sugar, based on the total amount of puree that was rendered)
salt (one or two pinches, to taste)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon allspice
juice of 1 lemon
1. Cut apples into quarters, including the peels and cores. Trim off any bad parts.
2. Put the apples in a large pot, add the vinegar and water, cover and bring to a boil. When the water boils, lower the temperature to a simmer. Cook the apples until they’re soft, about 20 minutes or so.
3. Ladle the apples into a fine mesh strainer or foodmill. Push the apples through the strainer using a spatula or wooden spoon into a large bowl. (I drained some of the water before pushing the apples through the strainer.)
4. Measure the puréed apples and add ½ cup of sugar for each cup of the purée. Stir well to dissolve the sugar; add a couple of pinches of salt, the cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and lemon juice and stir again to incorporate the spices. Taste the purée and adjust if needed. (Per the ratio above, I should add almost 2½ cups of sugar to my 4¾ cups of purée. But I wanted to try making the butter a little less sweet, so I added 1¼ cup of sugar to start, then added another ¼ cup.)
5. Transfer the purée to a large pot with a wide bottom and cook on medium heat. Stir constantly so the purée doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Continue cooking until the purée is smooth and thick; this can take 1-2 hours. Check the consistency by spooning a small amount onto a frozen plate; if it’s runny, it’s not quite there. (After you’ve got the right thickness, you can smooth the butter a bit more – like I did – by using an immersion blender.)
6. Cool the butter, then store in jars or airtight containers in the refrigerator or freeze. To preserve the apple butter, click the link above and follow the canning process explained in the recipe.
What other kinds of butters or jams do you make this time of year?