I picked a peck, well, only about half a peck of apples from my tree this morning, and am in the process of turning the small, misshapen, scabby ones into apple butter. I use the weird ones because they’re harder to peel and less visually appealing to eat. For apple sauce and apple butter I just quarter and core them, cut out any bad bits, and cook them skin and all, then run them through my Squeezo or food mill to get rid of the skins and reduce them to a nice smooth sauce. That way I have the nicest looking ones for eating, and the easy to peel ones for pies or other things where they need to be peeled.
I started with enough apples to nearly fill my biggest soup pot, and simmered them with maybe a half-inch of water to keep them from burning. I didn’t pay too much attention to them, just the occasional poke with a wooden spoon to see if they were cooked, and a quick stir while I was at it to make sure the bottom ones weren’t burning. When they were done, I ran the whole mess through the food mill and ended up with nearly 2 liters of applesauce.
I added a half cup of brown sugar, about a tablespoon of cardamom and 2 or 3 tablespoons of cinnamon, then put it in my oven, on convection at 275°. I stirred every time I went through the kitchen, which was probably every 20 to 40 minutes. After a couple of hours, I decided it was thick enough. This is, of course, subjective. After baking, I was left with just over 4 cups of apple butter.
My apple butter is on the tart side, but I decided not to add any more sweetening until I know what I’m going to do with it. In the past I’ve layered apple butter in a pie with a raisin filling to help counteract the sweet, rich raisins, and I thought tart would be best for that. If I want some of it sweeter, for spreading on toast, for instance, I’ll sweeten to taste as I want it.
I’ve never had “real” apple butter before, so I can’t say how this compares, but it is quite nice. I’ve made apple butter once before, using my slow cooker, and this method, if memory serves, is faster, but it does heat up your kitchen on a hot day. If I was making this again, I think I’d use the oven method, just for the sake of speed. I have to admit that I didn’t can it! I put it into freezer containers of varying sizes, since I am not yet sure what I’ll use it for.
I toyed with the idea of dehydrating some into apple leather, but at this point I don’t think I will, since that’s not a snack we eat much of. It would be much easier to do, however at this point, as it’s so much thicker than apple sauce.
My apple butter turned out thick, rich, and a lovely warm golden brown, with a comforting sweet and spicy fall flavour. I’m looking forward to finding ways to use it up!