Apple butter is one of those items that just signal fall to me. They are a little thicker and spicier than their cousin, apple sauce, but you can use apple butter in a variety of ways. Fruit “butters” are really just thick fruit jams, often made with stone fruits or other fruits that you don’t often see in jam version. However, a “butter” is not a jam, it is much more concentrated and requires a long time of boiling the fruit down to make a thick butter. In the end, all that time is worth it because you can use your butter in a variety of ways. I like to put apple butter on bread with figs, goat cheese and baby greens to make a quick, sweet sandwich. You can also put apple butter on bread or mix it up with actual butter and maybe add a pinch of caraway seed to spread on home-made biscuits. (The Roebling Tea Room, a popular restaurant in Brooklyn, make a version of this butter/apple butter mix and it is a-ma-zing.) After the jump, I will take you through the process of both making and canning apple butter.
(Note: I am using an apple butter recipe that I previously posted about. Click on the link to find the detailed recipe and canning instructions.)
Step One: Prepare your apples.
Core, peel and quarter four pounds of sweet apples. (I’m using Gala apples I got from the Union Square Greenmarket–check out your local farmer’s market for freshly-picked apples from your area.) Place the apples in a large pot and add 2 cups of water and simmer the apples until they become soft.
Step Two: Puree your apples.
Using a blender (a hand version works best) or food mill, puree your apples into a nice pulp. I used my food mill and mistakenly put it on the strainer with the biggest holes (uh–I believe that is the technical term) when I should have used the “medium” version. So my butter was a little bit grainy but I didn’t mind.
Measure out two quarts of apple pulp. You can set the pulp aside for a day or two if you want to break up the apple butter making process a bit.
Step Three: Make Your Butter!
Combine the apple pulp, four cups of sugar and spices specified in the recipe in a large pot. Cook the apples on low and stir continuously to make sure that the butter doesn’t burn. This takes awhile and your butter will shrink in size and become a darker color. Cook down until the butter rounds up on a spoon (meaning that the butter doesn’t slide off when you spoon it up).
Step Four: Can your butter
Ladle the hot butter into warm, sterilized jars. Leave 1/4 inch of head space, remove air bubbles with a wooden spatula end and put on lids and bands. Process filled jars for 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner with the lid on. After 10 minutes are up, remove lid and turn off heat and leave the jars in the water for about 5 minutes. This recipe gave me about seven half-pints of apple butter.
Step Five: You’re done!
Remove your jars from your canner and let them sit undisturbed for at least 6 hours. After 6 hours have passed, remove the bands and check to see if the lids are sealed. Label and store your jars in a dark place. The butter will keep for about a year.
This recipe gave me about 7 half-pints, with a little extra. If you are filling up your jars and notice that you have some extra or that you don’t have enough to fill up another a jar with the proper amount of head space, put the extra in a jar or plastic container and keep it in your fridge. Now you can enjoy your apple butter immediately! This apple butter also makes a great gift to friends or family members around the holidays. No one ever thinks to buy apple butter but it is such a great thing to have on hand.