Monday, November 7, 2011
Slow Cooker Apple Butter
I didn't plan to post 3 apple recipes in a row. It just sort of happened that way. I'm going to roll with it and call this apple week. I have to say, I'm loving all things apple right now. I think the culmination will be my Grandma Edna's apple pie recipe around Thanksgiving. It's one of those non recipe recipes. You know, a little of this, a little of that? But it is hands down my all time favorite apple pie. This apple butter is very reminiscent of those beloved apple pie flavors.
Hubby came home when the apple butter had been in the slow cooker for about 4 hours or so and the entire house smelled of apple goodness. He wondered what I was making....apple butter I told him. But when he saw the finished product, he said, "that doesn't look like butter". I tried to explain to him it doesn't actually contain butter, but it takes on a thick spreadable butter like consistency. He still couldn't seem to get beyond the name and told me I should stop calling it butter, since there is no butter! Oh, honey, you can call it whatever you want. This non butter butter is like a thick applesauce with an intense apple pie flavor.
Apple butter is great way to pizazz up your toast or English muffin. You can put it on graham crackers drizzled with caramel sauce for a snack like I did (I had some left over from the caramel apple cupcakes from earlier in the week begging to be used up). We also had apple butter for breakfast, stirred into homemade oatmeal. I'm kind of embarrassed to admit, it was my first time making homemade oatmeal (instead of using one of those Quaker oats packets). Now that I know how easy it is, I will be making it again over the coming winter months.
Apple butter is easy to make. You start with cut up apples and juice in a large pot and cook it down until the apples are tender. Then you blend the cooked apples into applesauce. You can use a blender or an immersion blender to puree your apples into sauce. What is an immersion blender, you ask? It's a handheld stick blender that you use right in the pot you are cooking in to puree your food. This handheld device does all the work a blender would do but you don't have the headache of transferring hot food to a blender in batches. It's fantastic for making soups, sauces and apple butter of course. If you are considering new gadgets for your holiday wish list, I highly recommend it. Ok, now that my PSA on immersion blenders is over...Your pureed applesauce goes into the slow cooker and you stir in sugar and spices and let the slow cooker do its thing for 8 to 10 hours. Part of the cooking time in the crock pot should be uncovered to allow the excess juices to boil down. I wasn't so patient and think mine could have used another hour or so uncovered. You can store the apple butter tightly covered in the fridge for a couple of weeks, or you can preserve it and give apple butter to your friends and family for the holidays. The recipe yields 7-8 one half pints of apple butter.
Slow Cooker Apple Butter
6 pounds of apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch pieces (I used honey crisp)
2/3 cup of apple cider or apple juice or water (I used apple juice)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Combine apples and cider (juice or water) in a large heavy bottomed pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce to simmer and continue cooking for about 30 minutes or apples are tender. Puree the apple mixture with an immersion blender (or if using a regular blender, remove the center piece of the lid to allow the heat to escape when blending). At this stage you will have applesauce.
Transfer the apple sauce to a crock pot and stir in the sugars and spices. Turn the crock pot to low and cook for 8 - 10 hours, until the mixture thickens and can hold its shape. You can test the apple butter by placing a dollop on a small plate and put the plate in the freezer for about 5 minutes, or until the plate no longer feels warm on the bottom. If the apple butter slides down the plate, it's not ready. Note: I had to cook the applesauce for 10 hours with the last 90 minutes removing the lid from the crock pot to allow the excess juice/liquid to cook off. The recipe doesn't specify whether to put the lid on the crock pot or not, but it was my assumption that it should be cooked covered.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks. Or you can easily preserve your apple butter. Click here for instructions on preserving. The butter should be preserved while it's still hot and then processed in your pot or canner for 20 minutes.