Monday, November 24, 2008

Thankful for Apples and Apple Butter

A few weeks ago I did an apple butter demonstration at church. Have you ever seen an apple butter kettle? Mine is probably 100 years old, made of copper with a stand to keep it above the fire.
The day before I peeled 3 bushels of apples. I use a mix of apples: Macintosh, Winesap, Golden Delicious, and just a bit of Granny Smith. It took about 4 hours using my peeler contraption.
Early Saturday morning, I took everything to church including an axe. What? I had to chop the wood for the fire. I used sassafras, and a little cedar because the smoke is so aromatic.
I started the fire, set the kettle stand over the flame, and then nestled the kettle into the stand.
Apple juice was the first to go in, that is my little secret to keep the apples from sticking. After it warmed a bit, I added a few apples, stirred with the paddle, added a few more apples, and so on until the entire 3 bushels were in the kettle.
By this time some folks from church had arrived and all took turns stirring. The youth minister invented a dance, "Amish Apple Butter Dance". It went like this, left heel back to right butt cheek with a little hop step, then the right heel back to the left butt cheek and a little hop step. All the while, pushing and pulling the apple butter paddle. It was so much fun. We all got the giggles when an Amish buggy drove by and Jeff yelled, "Look at me doing the Amish Apple Butter Dance"! I'm sure they were very impressed.
So after about 1-1/2 hours of stirring and breaking down the apples, I added cinnamon, cloves, white sugar, molasses, and a bit of apple cider vinegar to "tart" it up. Everyone took turns stirring some more. By this time we had some chairs near the kettle and more people had shown up. So, conversations were going, laughter was in the air, and we were getting hungry. Another 1-1/2 hours of stirring flew by.
We popped some buttermilk biscuits in the church's oven, and by the time the biscuits were ready so was the apple butter. We all had a taste and it was sooooo good!
The ladies jarred the apple butter. We all agreed that the jars would be sold at the Ladies Circle Bazaar. What a nice day.
I don't really think that many of you want to make 40 pints of apple butter in a kettle over an open flame. So, I have a slow cooker recipe for apple butter that will fill your house with a wonderful aroma, and then you've something special for your Thanksgiving breakfast! Let me know what you think...

Slow Cooker Apple Butter
Yield: 6 cups
4 pounds apples (use a variety), peeled and sliced about 1/4” thick
1/2 cup good quality apple cider vinegar
3 cups sugar
1 cup sorghum molasses or dark molasses (not blackstrap)
2-3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves


Place sliced apples and vinegar in a 4-quart slow cooker.
Cook, covered, at HIGH 6 hours. Stir occasionally. At the end of 6 hours, break down apples with a potato masher.

Stir in sugar, molasses, cinnamon, and cloves.
Reduce setting to LOW; cook, covered, 4 hours.
Whisk vigorously to further break up apples. I use an immersion blender.
Here is the tricky part: I cook it much longer than 4 hours because I like a thick, mounding,
old-fashioned apple butter. I suggest you check it at the 4 hour mark and go from there.

Cool. Place in containers. Store in refrigerator up to a week.
Freeze: Place apple butter in freezer containers leaving about 1/2” headspace. Put a folded piece of plastic wrap on top of apple butter to help prevent ice crystals. Put on freezer lid. Freeze for up to 4 months.

NOTE: If the apples aren’t very juicy, you may need to add a bit of apple juice/cider from time to time if they seem to be sticking on the bottom or around the edges.

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