Every autumn for 5 or 6 years now, I've made apple butter. It's a bunch of work, but it's nice to give out on the holidays, and I happen to love apple products. I've had a few requests for it, so here's my recipe. It's based on one from Simply Recipes, but instead of cooking my butter on the stovetop, I usually bake mine down in the oven, which is a technique listed in Putting Food By.
- 4 lbs apples -- cooking apples are better here although I tend to use a mix
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups water
- Dash of salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- rind and juice of 1 lemon
Vaguely Special Equipment Needed
- A food mill, chinois sieve, or some sort of filter mechanism. I've used a cheapo mesh sieve for years now. It works well enough.
- canning jars
- Cut the apples into quarters -- no need to peel/core them.
- Put them into a big pot with the vinegar and water. Cover, bring to a boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the apples are soft.
- Run the apple pulp through your mill or sieve into a large bowl, and then measure the puree. For each cup of pulp, add 1/2 cup of sugar, stirring to dissolve. You can use less sugar if you like although I haven't experimented too much with the limits of that.
- Add the spices, lemon rind and juice. This is a good time to check the taste, because it'll be more challenging when it's boiling hot.
Cooking it Down: You have the option of cooking it down on your stove, but I'm lazy and easily distracted, so I follow something I found in Putting Food By, and I cook it down in my oven.
- Put the pulp in a large roasting dish or oven-safe enameled pot (I use my dutch oven), and cook it at 300F until it thickens.
- As it thickens, you'll see the color deepen, and it will start to bubble and should smell pretty damn good.
- You'll need to check on it every now and then to make sure that it doesn't get too much of a film on the top. This should take a couple hours.
- When it's starting to look shiny, and when a spoon of it forms a bit of a mound instead of sliding right off, you should be done. Can, store, etc, according to whatever makes you happiest. One random note -- I often make the apple pulp in advance, and keep it in the fridge for a couple of days. You definitely don't have to do the whole process at once.