Apple Butter

17 Oct

Today, we went to a farm and picked our own pumpkins for Halloween! It was an amazing outing – Z got to see her first live goats, pigs and cow, and we took a hayride. It was really fun, and such a pleasure to be outside on a sunny, but cold autumn day! One of the best parts for me was wandering through the farmstall, checking out all the produce. They have an apple orchard, so you can pick your own apples, or else just take home huge bags of picked apples. All kinds of squash and pumpkins, lovely ripe tomatoes, kale, fresh baked breads… and they had apple butter!

Oh, do I love this stuff. Apple butter is completely vegan – a kind of cooked down version of apple sauce. Its very thick, rich, dark caramelised brown. It tastes, as Julia said, like Christmas – apples and spices and everything nice! Its a wonderful substitute for fats (vegetable oil or butter) in baked goods – and its phenomenal on all kinds of breakfast dishes – from oatmeal to yogurt to waffles to plain old toast. Grilled cheese sandwiches (especially brie) reach heights unimagined with a slather of apple butter. Honestly, try some!

This recipe for apple butter takes a while. Its an afternoon of cooking when you find yourself at home, and its cold outside or rainy, and you have a surfeit of apples. I always try and make this with at least two different kinds of apples, just to give it depth of flavour. And choose your spices yourself – I give you what I use, but feel free to mix it up, add, subtract or whatever tastes good to you! For depth of flavour, I also use different sugars and honey. And remember, this is totally a guide recipe – if your apples are incredibly sweet, you wont need as much sugar. But do note that the sugar is used to create the caramelised effect in the butter, and also to encourage thickening. Dont use too little or it wont set properly.

Cook this apple butter with a view to caning or freezing it. You will have loads, and its wonderful to have in the fridge when you just want something warm, spicy, indulgent and yet relatively healthy. Enjoy!

Makes about 6 cups

  • 10 – 12 large apples, mixed variety (about 4 lbs/ 2 kgs)
  • 1 cup apple cider (or apple juice – purest you can find plus 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups of sugar – half light brown sugar, half white sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey (optional)
  • 1 – 2 tsp cinnamon (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp each nutmeg, allspice and ginger (according to your preference)
  • Pinch of cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Juice and grated peel of 1 lemon

Peel, core and chop the apples fine. Put in a large pot (I usually use my oval enamel Le Creuset). Add the apple cider, and over medium high heat bring the apples and liquid to the boil. Once everything is bubbling, bring the heat down to medium low, and simmer until the apples are soft and tender, about half an hour.

Once the apples are very soft, use an immersion blender (or food processor or even a potato masher) to puree the apples. You now have a version of apple sauce!

Taste. Add the sugar, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cloves, salt and lemon and stir well to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings, remembering that a long slow cooking will caramelise everything and make all the flavours much more intense.

You have a choice now. You can bake the apple sauce in the oven (set quite low – about 125 C / 250 F) for about 3 – 4 hours, stirring every half an hour or so. Or you can cook it over low heat on the stove top, stirring often for up to 2 hours. I prefer this way because I love the scent and the warmth of the apple butter filling the house, and I believe that constant stirring makes for a smoother butter.

Either way, by the end of the cooking time, you will have a very thick, very caramelised dark brown butter, scented with spice and tasting of the essence of apple. Enjoy the fruits of your labour, and give some to friends so they can taste your love too!

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