August 27, 2013

From the Orchard: Apple Butter

There is a small orchard behind my house, with antique varieties of apples. They bear fruit only every other year, but this is their year and it's a big one. The trees are loaded with fruit, as are all the wild apples in the area; the conditions must have been perfect for pollination. They are also coming ripe a couple of weeks early, so I am busy this week canning apple butter and apple sauce. I made a first batch of apple butter with the very early apple Sops of Wine. These apples, Duchess of Oldenburg, ripen next. They are a great cooking apple, tart and crisp. I learned from the Fedco Trees site that it is an 18th century apple, imported from Russia in 1835. I thought I'd share my apple butter recipe, which is actually from an old copy of the Joy of Cooking, but I assume the recipe is still in the new version. It's very simple to make and if you don't have a canner, you can freeze the apple butter instead.

4-5 lbs flavorful apples (I use 5 lbs because my apples sometimes are wormy, so I have to cut chunks out)
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar for each cup pulp
3 teas cinnamon
1 1/2 teas cloves    (If you don't want it very spicy you can use a little less of the spices)
1/2 teas allspice

Wash the apples, quarter them and remove the stems. Place them in a pot with the water and cook until soft.

Press the apples through a fine strainer or food mill. leaving behind the skins and seeds.

Put this pulp in a heavy bottomed pot, measuring the amount. Heat it and add the sugar and spices. I had about 6 cups of pulp, so added 3 cups of sugar. When you add the spices, the mixture will darken. Cook at a low bubble, stirring often so it doesn't stick, until it is spreadably thick. A standard description of the proper jam consistency is "sheets from a spoon" but I find that hard to use with apple butter, which tends to plop from a spoon. Joy of Cooking suggests another test: put a small amount on a plate; if there's no separation of liquid, then it's done. Remember that it will thicken as it cools. Behind the pot of apple butter is the boiling-water canner.

Put in clean hot jars, with boiled lids and clean rims finger tight. Boil in a canner for 10 minutes. I love hearing the pop pop pop of lids as they seal shut after being removed from the canner. The recipe says this makes 5 pints, but I got only about 4 pints. With all my other jams, I should have a two year supply of this delicious, spicy apple butter.

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