Last weekend I had the chance to go apple picking with my nephews. One of the positives to the move to Missouri is being so close to them. Since it is that time of year that apples come into season, I saw a few local orchards that offered apple picking. Growing up I never really went apple picking. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area there were a lot of farms within a quick drive but apples weren't that common. Plus our fall isn't quite the same as other places in the U.S. When I studied in Rhode Island, I was thrown into the culture where this event is more traditional. Having a Rhode Islander as a boyfriend, I knew this was a tradition to keep in the family. What's better than getting a shit ton of apples and making some delicious pastries?
Of course we should share this time with my nephews as well. It's really fun to pick an apple and to bite into it right off the tree and I want them to enjoy these things in life. Come to find out, no one in my family has done it, not even my parents. Of course this was going to be a great trip. So we masked up and went to an orchard. I found a farm not far from the city and off we went.
Coming home with bags of apples in my arms, it was time to make one of my favorites. When you go a little wild with apples and end up with too many to think off, apple butter is the best solution. It's easy to make, just a few ingredients, and fills the house with the smell of fall all day. It just happened the day I did this was also the first day of fall, the perfect way to ring in the new season.
If you haven't had apple butter, its pretty much a slowly reduced down apple sauce that get this rich flavor from slowly cooking all day and caramelizing. You can easily do this in a sauce pot on a low heat (use a dutch oven if you have it) but I find a crock pot is the easiest way to do this. I'm going to take you through my process and the ratios of spices and sugar I preferred. Highly recommend changing up the sugars with maple syrup or more honey. The recipe is written for one pound of apples to easily be increased or multiplied for however many apples you get. Weigh after you prep them and adjust everything else with that final apple measurement. Enjoy!
All Day Apple Butter
1lbs. Apples, peeled, cored, small chunks
1 oz. Brown Sugar
1/2-1 ea. Lemon, zest and juice
1/2 tbsp Cinnamon, ground
1/2 tsp Ginger, ground
1/2 pinch Cardamom, ground
1/4 ea. Whole Nutmeg, ground (about 1/2 tsp)
Toss the apples with the lemon juice while prepping to keep from oxidizing.
In the bowl of a crock pot, layer the apples with sugar, honey, and spices.
Heat on high for 30 minutes.
Stir to help cook. Turn to low and cook, covered, for 8-12 hours.
After about 8 hours, if the apples are soft and are falling apart into a mash, use an immersion blender to puree into a smooth apple butter. You can also leave the chunks and let them break down as much as they can on their own but the final mixture will not be super smooth.
Crack the lid and cook, stirring often, for another 1-2 hours.
Can while hot and process to preserved if desired.
A few notes I want to cover with making apple butter. Of course a variety of apples is ideal but always adjust on what apples you have. I was lucky enough to get a nice blend of sweet and a little tartness in my apples. If you use all granny smith apples you may not need any lemon juice. If you don't have any tartness in the apples, add extra lemon juice. It also comes down to personal preference but a
nice apple flavor is sweet, tart, and spicy, so make sure you work to create a well rounded flavor. Once the butter is almost done you can easily add more spices, lemon juice, or sugar to adjust to your taste.
If you like a smooth apple butter (like me) you can puree it near the end of the cooking process. I wait until the apples are all cooked into a mush and super soft. There may be some chunks but they could be smashed with a wooden spoon. The immersion blender just helps speed this process along. You can also do batches in a blender or food processor but this is one of the many reasons you should invest in an immersion blender. I have a cheaper $35 one that has lasted a long time with a lot of projects. If you don't want to, just leave it be and it will keep cooking down and get somewhat smooth on its own. The blending just makes it super smooth.
A little before and after to see at what point I pureed and how smooth it was after.
After blending, cooking with the lid cracked allows for moisture loss and to reduce it to a thicker point. I continued to cook it or another hour like this. Play with this stage to see what you like. Remember that it will thicken slightly after cooling. Overall I had it on high for 30 minutes, low for 8 1/2 hours, pureed and then reduce another hour for a total of 10 hours to make it. It seems like a long time but as long as you get up in the morning and start it first thing, it requires little attention all day and gives you a lot of delicious apple butter to spread of toast or bake with! I made some streusel bars with mine and the recipe variation will be up soon for more ideas to use up apples!