It’s apple season! I was on the phone with each of my sibs and was lamenting the demise of our parents and our grandparents. Not only do we miss their company and their wisdom, but we miss their cooking too.
The shame of it is that many families have recipes that are gone forever when our loved ones pass on. This month, I am really missing my grandmother’s apple butter. Both my brother and sister loved the stuff too. We always had some in the house and I used to pile it on toast with tons of butter. We’re talkin’ Breakfast of Champions.
My Grandma: Lilllian Ethelynde Haynes Roberson, circa 1927.
So my brother laid down the gauntlet. “Well, Plucky?…” he said . “I challenge thee to come up with the recipe.”
I started researching. There are a million recipes out on the web for apple butter. My cookbook collection had more than a few too. But in the back of my mind, I had to remember: WWGD (What would Grandma do?).
For those of you who are too shy to ask the question; there is NO butter in apple butter. Don’t let the name fool you. The way I see it, you first have to make applesauce and then step two is to make the apple butter.
Making the applesauce is fairly easy. Just how easy depends on you. You can either go to the store and buy it already made (remember: you are just cheating yourself), or use the preferred method of making it yourself.
I went to the Trenton Farmer’s Market to check out the apples. I was on the hunt for Gravensteins, which Martha Stewart says is the bomb for baking. Nicki Russo had a variety of apples available but her Gravensteins are not yet ready for harvest. She learned that I was going to make apple butter and offered me a deal on a bag of second quality apples for $12. I gave her the cash and this HUGE plastic bag of apples came my way. I felt like I was carrying two toddlers to the car!
Six batches of apple butter later… I can now give you the results of my testing. There’s a great many ways that you can make apple butter and I tried to do what I thought my grandmother would do. She was a very straightforward cook. I think the only spice she kept in the cabinet was cinnamon, so that is what I went with. Take the following recipe as a guide. You can get a further depth of flavor by using a mixture of spices and flavorings. Hey guys! I think I nailed it.
APPLE BUTTER A’LA ETHELYNDE
Step 1: The Applesauce
4 pounds apples (a variety is preferable, you just want to stay away from crab apple, Fuji, Gala or Ginger Gold).
2 cups water
1 cup cider vinegar
Wash and cut the apples in 8ths. Leave the peels and cores on.
Place all in a large dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Reduce to medium and gently boil for 20 minutes, or until apples are tender.
Take pot off heat and allow to cool slightly. Run all the mushy apples through a food mill. (If you don’t have one, you can smash them through a sieve). Discard the cores, seeds and skins. The remaining pulp is your applesauce. You will have anywhere from 6 to 8 cups of pulp.
Step 2: The Apple Butter
Depending on how your schedule is for the day, you have two options: the slow simmer, or the even slower crockpot method.
Add a 1/2 cup sugar for each cup of pulp. (Yes, it is a heck of a lot of sugar)
2 teaspoons cinnamon (If you want to go for it, you can try two teaspoons in total of your favorite spice mix)
If slow cooking:mix all together in dutch oven and simmer for 4-6 hours. Stir
I used a Foley Food Mill to process the cooked apples.
frequently as you want the steam to evaporate and reduce your pulp to a jam-like consistency.
If you lean towards the crock pot: mix all together in your crock pot. Turn on high and let it go for two hours. Go out to lunch with a friend. Use a chopstick to vent the lid as you want to keep in heat but not form condensation. (Note to self: PLUG IN CROCKPOT before you go) After mixture is hot, take lid off and stir every 15 minutes until pulp is reduced to favored consistency. This can take anywhere from 6 – 8 hours. Here’s a way to tell when it’s done: Use a balloon whisk and stir the pot a bit. If there is a trail left by the whisk when you remove it from the pot, you are done!
Pack that luscious yummy apple butter into jam jars and process in a hot water bath, or freeze small portions, or refrigerate. Pull some out for breakfast the next day and think of Grandma.
Yield: 7 half-pint jars.