Sunday, November 6, 2011

Can-Do Attitude: Apple Sauce and Apple Butter

Something that I started (for myself) last year was canning/preserving food.  We don't have a pressure cooker, so I'm limited to mostly acidic foods, like fruits, but this really is a "simple" process.  It just takes effort, and a few free hours of your time.  I started with the most basic process - apple sauce.

First, You need to peel, core, and slice your apples.  I've have the coolest inventions of all time.  This makes peeling/coring/slicing 14+ apples an absolute breeze.  Thomas flew through them in about 10 minutes.  You just load, crank, remove, and reload.  You get the perfect rings, and a core-less, peel-less apple ready for making apple sauce.

Then, you add your apples (about 16 medium, or 14 large, in my case) to 2 cups of water in a large pot.

Since apples are mostly water, it doesn't take too long for them to cook down, especially when you crank the stove up on high.

As the apples break down, they will even out with the level of the water.  When they're tender, take them off the heat. 

I drain the apples to remove the water.  You can reserve it, if you want to thinner sauce, but I generally discard it since I like my apple sauce chunky.

Load up the apples into a food processor.  My loving husband bought a 14 cup one for my birthday, so throwing in all those apples is no big deal.

Pulse/puree your sauce to the desired consistency.

Now is the time you decide - do you want sauce or do you want the butter?

For sauce, return the apple pulp to your pot, add up to1/4 cup of sugar per pound of apple.  If you choose a sweeter apple - like a Gala or Red Delicious - you shouldn't have to add much, or any sugar.  You can also add Splenda or a sugar equivalent if you'd like the sweetness with out a lot of extra calories.  Boil the apple sauce, stir in cinnamon, if you'd like.  It's all about your preferences.  If you're canning, you can skip the next few steps and go to the boiling.  If not, use tupperware to save/freeze, etc.  You'll get about 5 half pint servings, which isn't a lot, but it tastes phenomenally!!

For the apple butter, this is a good place to pause.  Moving from apple sauce to apple butter takes a good 6+ hours.  NO WHERE in my original recipe did I realize this - the recipe just said to cook slowly until thick enough to round up on a spoon.  Well, half my day later, I learned!!  Then, I found a new recipe idea - The Crock Pot!

Load your apple pulp into your Crock Pot.  Add your spices - I add about 4 cups of sugar, 2 teaspoons for ground cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves.  Stir it well.  I also like to add about 3/4 cup of apple cider when it's in stock at the store, if not, you can add apple juice or water.

Set up your pot to cook on low for about 8 hours.  This will help reduce some of the liquid and the apples will really absorb the spices. 

After eight hours, the apple butter will be darkened, to a more recognizeable color for apple butter.  In order to cook it down more, I leave the lid off, kick it up to high, and let it cook for another 3 hours.  It's not as bad as sitting in front of the stove for all of this time.  WARNING: Boiling apple sauce/butter will HURT like anything as it boils and flies up and hits you.  Try and avoid this at all cost.  Unfortunately, this Crock Pot doesn't get that hot, so after this step, I move the apple butter to the stove.

I have an immersion blender that I use at this step to help liqueify the the butter.  You can leave it to be more "rustic," but that smooth, spreadable texture comes from repeatedly processing the apple butter to your desired consistency.

For jarring, you need to boil the apple sauce, and the apple butter.  The hotter your process the food, the less likely you are to let bacteria grow and poison your friends and family!
When your sauce/butter is ready and has boiled, then you can pour it into prepared jars.  The jars should be cleaned, and come from a hot (almost boiling) pot of water.  Fill the jars, leaving at least 1/4 inch of space at the top.  Then, add a vacuum seal lid (that has also come from a warm water bath, never boiling), and screw on the lid holder until finger tight.  To process the jars, submerge in boiling water, making sure that the jars are completely covered with at least one inch of water above their lids.  Boil for 10 minutes, and then carefully remove the jars to cool and seal.  You'll hear the lids "pop" as they vacuum seal themselves.

This recipe makes five half-pint jars of apple butter or apple sauce.  Once properly sealed, you can keep the canned goods for up to one year.

Does it take a long time?  Sure, but they taste amazing, and it's totally worth it!  Just know that you're dedicating an afternoon or evening to make a product where you know where every ingredient is coming from!  Plus, it really impresses your house guests, and tastes amazing!  I'll post a few more recipes over the next couple of weeks to show you how easy this really is. 

Today's recipe:
Apple Butter
4 lbs of apples (about 16 medium)
4 cups of sugar
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
3/4 cup of apple cider

Wash, peel, core, and and quarter the apples.  Combine apples with 2 cups of water in a large pot, simmering until soft.  Puree with a food processor, careful not to liquefy.    At this point, you can add sugar/spices to make apple sauce, or add the listed sugar and spices to proceed with making apple butter.

Combine ingredients in a crock pot, cook on low for 8 hours, then high and uncovered for 3 more.  Then, move to the stove, use an immersion blender to make smooth, and bring to a boil.  Finally, jar and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Serve up and enjoy!

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