Now that summer has finally segued into fall, numerous varieties of apples have been rolling into the markets at a steady pace. Instead of baking the usual pies and tarts that go along with the season, why not try something a little different? Apple butter is not at all difficult to make and the payoff is big. The homemade kind is nothing like that gloppy, cloyingly sweet stuff you'll find on the shelf at Publix. The recipe for apple butter below really tastes like the apples you make it with — tart, sweet and bright, subtly spiced and full of fresh flavor.
If you're the least bit apprehensive about preparing and canning your own apple butter, don't be. Sure it takes a little time, but most of it is passive time when you could be doing something else, like baking fresh scones to go along with it. The USDA has an excellent free guide to home canning on the web; I highly recommend it.
Remember, the only thing you have to fear is fear itself. Just keep thinking of the sense of pride you'll feel when you share the wealth with family and friends.
Homemade Apple Butter
Adapted from 101Cookbooks.com
Makes 4 pints
5 pounds of apples, peeled and cut into chunks (I used a mix of McIntosh, Fuji and Honeycrisp)
1/2 gallon of apple cider
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Juice of one lemon
Also needed: 8 clean half-pint canning jars or 4 pint-sized canning jars with new lids and rims
1. To prepare the jars: Heat oven to 225 F and place the jars (but not lids) on a baking sheet and into the oven. The jars will need to stay in the oven for at least 20 minutes. Wash the lids with hot water and let them dry completely on a clean towel.
2. To make the apple butter: Heat a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the apples and enough apple cider to just cover the apples. Bring to a simmer. Skim off any foam that surfaces. Continue simmering the apples until they are soft and tender, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and puree in a blender, in small batches. Don't fill the blender more than halfway or you may end up with a hot mess! The puree should be the consistency of a thin applesauce.
3. Put the puree back in the big pot over medium heat. Bring to a brisk simmer and stir in the rest of the ingredients. Continue to simmer over medium/med-low heat, stirring frequently, until the apple butter reduces and really thickens up. This will take at least 2 hours. The apple butter will darken as it cooks. Toward the end, the simmer should become more lava-like, sputtering, gurgling and splattering. That's when it should be done. Remove the pot from the heat.
4. Fill your biggest, deepest pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. The water level will need to cover the jars. Remove the jars from the oven and fill each with apple butter to within 1/4 inch of the top. Wipe off rims with a clean dry paper towel. Place a dry lid on each jar and close tightly. Using tongs, place each of the jars in the boiling water and boil for at least 10 minutes.
5. Using tongs, remove the jars from the pot and place on a clean kitchen towel to cool. When cooled, gently press down on each lid. If the lid doesn't pop, the seal should be good. If it does pop, store the jar in the fridge and use within 2 weeks.