Friday, October 12, 2012

Making Apple Butter

Apples are everywhere right now in the Northern Hemisphere.  A sure sign of Fall.  I prefer to get mine from the many apple farms we have within a few hours of my house rather than buy them from the store. If you have apple trees in your back yard, even better!  You have a yearly source of many delicious apples. 

I usually purchase a few bushels of apples each year.  In addition to eating them, I also can a lot: apple pie filling, apple sauce, and apple juice.  This year, I have also canned apple butter.

There are many ways to make apple butter. A friend of mine told me that she remembers her mother cooking the apples for days while the wonderful aroma filled the house.I know someone else who cooks her apple butter in a crock pot overnight. You can also find an apple butter recipe on page 53 in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. My way of making apple butter is a bit unusual but much quicker.

I actually make both apple juice and apple butter at the same time. When I go to the apple farm, I ask for seconds. Seconds are apples that are somehow flawed, they are considered 'second best'. Sometimes they have a scar on the skin or maybe they are small or misshaped. Seconds work very well for apple juice and apple butter, no need to spend extra money on the perfect apple for this.

I start with 1/2 bushel of apples and my Hamilton Beach juicer. (I know, it uses electricity!) The first step is to wash the apples and juice them.  I do cut the apples in half so they fit in the juicer better. The juicer really makes juice that has more of an apple cider consistency with lots of bits of apple pulp in it.  The pulp is the key to getting the apple butter. Here is a picture of what comes out of the juicer. You can see some of the pulp and foam on top of the juice.

The next step is to pasteurize the juice.  I heat it to 190 degrees and hold that temperature for five minutes.  Don't let the juice boil.  I usually stir frequently to break up the foam and let it 'melt' into the juice.
Now, at this point you could process the juice for canning.  You won't get any apple butter but you will get a juice with an apple cider consistency. Before opening the jar,shake well (just like apple cider) and drink that wonderful juice.  I canned the second bushel of apples this way. 
To make a clear juice and separate the apple pulp for the apple butter, the next step is to strain the juice.  I run mine through cheesecloth.  I set up another pot, put a strainer on top with the cheese cloth in it and pour the juice in.  If I had the patience, I would leave the juice to drip for 30 minutes or so.  I don't.  What I do is pour in little batches, then move the cheese cloth to a clean spot and pour some more.  All the while, I am collecting the apple pulp and putting it into another bowl. 

At the end of this process, you will have a clear apple juice ready for canning (well, clearer apple juice - if you want it as clear as what you get in the store, strain it a few more times) and apple pulp ready to turn into apple butter.
Put the apple pulp in a large saucepan. Add:
  • 1 1/2 tsps cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 3 to 5 cups of sugar (add this to taste - I added 2 3/4 cups) 

Heat to boiling on medium heat stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. When it starts to boil, turn the heat down to simmer and let it cook for 1 hour.

As the apple butter cooked, I canned the apple juice.  I didn't strain it again. You can see here it still has a bit of pulp in the bottom of the jar.

The apple butter is done when it doesn't separate. Put a teaspoon full on a chilled plate. If the butter holds its consistency and liquid doesn't run off when the plate is tilted, the butter is done.  I must apologize, I forgot to take a picture of my testing plate. Here is a picture of the finished apple butter.

At this point, its ready to can, freeze or eat!  If you are going to eat it directly, pour into a container and refrigerate.  I canned most of mine. The jar in the picture above went into the refrigerator to eat now. Here is the final product along with some of the canned apple juice.

If you are interested in learning how to can, you can read an overview of the canning process here.  Be sure to save the discards from the juicer!  You can turn that into vinegar.

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