My first attempt at apple butter fell flat. I used a recipe from Tasty Kitchen that basically filled a crock pot with cored, sliced apples and a few spices, and cooked them for 8 hours on low before canning. I didn't quite have time for 8 hours plus canning time, so I cooked for 3 hours of high, then let them crock on low for 2 more hours. The apples got soft and smelled and tasted good, but they were pretty much still just chunks of apples, and not at all what I had in mind. So I ran it through my Cuisinart to mush it up, but still had wee chunks of apples. That's how I canned it, but it's.... kinda disappointing.
Then I found this recipe from Cooking Light. It got rave reviews. Basically the same idea, cook apples until they're tender, then can. But this one had an added step: press the soft, cooked apples through a fine-mesh sieve. The result is a pure, soft, amazingly delicious bite of heaven. The house was filled with an aroma that made me want to wear a sweater and read a book. Or just never leave the house. I wish I had a candle or room spray filled with this scent so I could inhale it all the time.
So if you do use the sieve (and I cannot recommend it more), what do you do with the cast offs? The recipe says "discard." Discard from the recipe, yes. But from your life? Oh no no no no no. I put mine in the fridge and have been eating it since on ice cream, in my morning oatmeal, but the spoonful.... you get the idea. Even the cast offs taste awesome.
Without further ado, here it is, most amazing thing I've made since last week's caramel corn:
Overnight Apple Butter
From Cooking Light, Circa 2004
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup apple cider (I used home pressed. Probably why it's so good.)
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp mace (I used more cloves because I didn't have mace)
10 medium apples, peel, cored, and cut into large chunks (about 2.5 lbs)
Option 1, Crock Pot (~10 hours):
Combine all ingredients in a 5-quart electric slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 10 hours or until apples are very tender. Place a large fine-mesh sieve over a bowl; spoon one-third of apple mixture into sieve. Press mixture through sieve using the back of a spoon or ladle. Discard pulp (to refrigerator!). Repeat procedure with remaining apple mixture. Return apple mixture to slow cooker. Cook, uncovered, on high 1 1/2 hours or until mixture is thick, stirring occasionally.
Option 2, Stove Top (~1 hour):
Combine all ingredients in a dutch oven. Cover and cook over medium-low heat 1 hour or until apples are very tender, stirring occasionally. Strain through a sieve and return to pan. Cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat 15 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently.
Apple butter can be kept in the fridge for up to a week, frozen for up to 6 months, or canned and shelved for up to 18 months. But it won't last that long. Makes 4 cups.
I used my new dutch oven (see the picture? it's green and boooo-tiful) and the stove top method. If I wanted to eat all of the next day, I would start this in the crock pot and cook over night. But for canning, I was happy to use the quick 1 hour method. I came up with about 4 and a half cups using giant Golden Delicious from my parents' yard.
I found a great way to use up a jar of the chunky apple butter - baking! It may be unattractive to spread on toast, but in these bars you'll never notice. Mmmmm good.
Apple Butter Dessert Bars
Modified from Williams-Sonoma Pecan Pumpkin Butter Dessert Squares
1 box yellow cake mix, set aside 1 cup
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups apple butter
2 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13 pan.
Divide cake mix, placing all but one cup in a mixing bowl. Stir melted butter and one egg into the cake mix until combined. Press the mixture into the bottom of the pan and set aside.
In another bowl, mix apple butter with two eggs and milk until combined. Spread apple mixture over pressed cake mix.
Stir the reserved 1 cup cake mix into the flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Cut in soften butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over the top of the apple layer.
Bake for about 35 minutes, or until golden brown (mine took almost 40 minutes). Cool and cut into 2 inch squares. Serves 24.