Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Holiday Home-made Artisan Gift Idea: Apple Butter

The Story

With the current state of our economy, I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that it is possible that you may be looking for ways to slim down the Christmas gift budget.  I have a recipe for that will allow you to make very inexpensive, hand crafted, artisan quality gift that your family and friends will thank you for over and over again. 

We made this apple butter last year.  We were looking for a good family craft project that we could give as gifts and was all of that and more.  Apple butter is great on toast, English muffins or bagels.  But there are also some great recipes out there that use apple butter in muffins, cakes and breads.  If you do a Google search for apple butter, you will be blown away by how many recipes are out there.  Some can be made in as few as 30 minutes, others, like mine take the better part of the day in a slow cooker.  So here are a few reasons that I think the slow cooker method works best for this recipe.  First, it cooks all day, but it isn’t all-day long intensive, standing over the pot kind of cooking.  Second, the slow method allows you to layer the flavors, so the spices aren’t muted, and the finished product doesn’t separate.  Third, it leaves your whole house enveloped in a fantastic, Fall flavored, warmly spiced aroma.

That’s enough of the story.  Let’s cook!

  • 6 pounds apples, cored and sliced (1/2 Granny Smith, 1/2 Gala)
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 1 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground all-spice

The How-To

Start by preparing your apples.  You can buy a special apple corer/slicer/peeler at just about any housewares store for about $20.  They are easy to use and they really do work pretty well.  I have one in my kitchen.  The only thing I would say is, if you have one or buy one, do not peel the apples for this recipe. 

Fill your slow cooker with apples, and its okay if it’s a couple of inches above the rim of your cooker.  Add the apple cider and set the lid on top, as it cooks down, the lid will settle into place.  Walk away and let it do it’s thing.  Stop by every hour or so and give the apples a stir.

After about 6 hours, the apples will have softened and broken down, it will look like thick, chunky applesauce.  As a matter of fact, that is exactly what this is.  If you were to cool this and jar it, you just made applesauce.  But since we are making apple butter, not applesauce, let’s continue.  Add the sugar and spices to the cooker and stir until the spices are well dispersed.  At this point, you can switch from stirring with a spoon to using a whisk. 

Allow the sauce to thicken and the apples to continue to breakdown.  This stage could take anywhere from a few minutes to 2 more hours.  You can leave the lid off the cooker at this point to allow for evaporation. 

Now you are ready to do the canning.  You will process these jars for 10 minutes in a hot water bath.  Here is a great website that can teach you everything you ever wanted to know about how to preserve by canning.  http://www.freshpreserving.com/