Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Apple Butter Tutorial

I discovered a large box of cut and peeled apples in the freezer so of course I had to make Apple Butter! For those of you not familiar with Apple Butter, it is similar to Apple Sauce but spiced to have a rich flavor. It is also thickened making it a great spread for bread, bagels, English muffins or anything else you spread on. I do know people that pour a bowl and eat it like apple sauce as well. I have thrown a few spoonfuls in oatmeal to give add flavor. In other words, Apple Butter is yummy and versatile!

First, I ran all the apples through my juicer then poured the pulp back into the juice. I love my juicer!

After the mushed apples were ready, I grabbed my canning pot, filled it with water and the quart-sized jars I planned to use and turned the burner to high to start a boil.

I could have started the pot before I did anything with the apples but I didn't think about it at first. Always start your canning pot early in the canning process. You need around 20 minutes for the water to come to a boil and sterilize the jars. Sterile jars are important to prevent bacteria from living and multiplying in your food.

Once I had the water on the stove and heating up, I measured the apple mash. I had 24 cups! That's a lot of apple. I poured the mash into a large pot and added spices.

For spices I added nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. The rule of thumb is 1/2 tsp of each for every 4 cups of apple. You can alter this ratio to your taste. This particular ratio gives a nice spicy flavor but if you prefer a more mild apple butter, you can reduce the spices.

When I called my mom and asked for the recipe for her apple butter, she told me to add 1 cup of sugar for every cup of apple. 24 cups of sugar? That's way too much! I decided to take a risk and half the amount of sugar she said. That was still 12 cups of sugar but I felt better about that than 24 cups. I grabbed a #10 can of sugar from food storage and basically used the whole thing.

After I added the sugar I turned the burner up to high and brought the mixture to a boil. The boiling is for a couple reasons. First, the heat helps the sugar caramelize and thicken the apple butter. Second, it helps kill any bad things you don't want in your food.

Once you have a nice rolling boil in the apple butter and in canning pot, using canning jar tongs pull out a jar of filled with boiling water. Have a second pot of water filled with the tops and rings on the stove and pour the boiling water from the jar onto the lids and rings.

See the handy-dandy magnet? Those things are totally worth the money. If you want to can, buy one. It makes pulling the lids and rings out of the hot water easier than pie! Wait, so far pie has eluded my abilities -yes, the crusts have been coming out really gross -so think of something easier than making pie and it's even easier than that!
Now that we have the easier-than-that dilemma figured out, the next step is filling the jars with apple butter. I used wide mouth jars and a ladle to fill the jars. If you have regular width jars, a canning funnel makes pouring much easier.

When you fill the jars, make sure to leave at least an inch at the top empty. If you don't (like I forgot to) the apple butter can expand and pour out the top during the water bath or cooling.

In the picture to the right, I'm cleaning off the threads and tops of the jars. No matter what you are canning, make sure that the top and threads are clean so the jars will seal properly. Use a clean, damp rag.

See how high I filled the jars? I should have filled just to the point where the jar narrows instead of half way up the neck of the jar. Lesson learned.

Next step: grab the lids and rings from the small pot you poured hot water in and place them on the jars. They will be hot so I recommend using hot pads or a towel to twist the rings on. Tighten the rings down until they are snug.

Once you have the lids on, put the jars in the boiling water ('cause you left the water boiling, right?)

Depending on the size of you canning pot, you might be able to do a few jars at a time or lots of jars at a time. I think I use a standard canning pot which holds 7 quart sized jars. This turned out to be perfect for this batch of apple butter. I did 6 quarts and made 2 pints of apple butter to sell at the Seward Farmer's Market.

Let the jars boil for about 30 minutes. This gives the heat plenty of time to kill off any remaining germs and create the right vacuum for sealing.

Once your timer beeps, pull out the jars and place them on a towel on your counter. Almost immediately, you'll hear some popping. The pop is the vacuum doing it's thing and sealing the jars properly. Let the jars sit for a couple hours then press down on each lid. If your lids are sealed, they won't pop again. Unsealed jars will make a popping noise when you press down in the middle of the lid.

Here is one of the completed jars of apple butter. If you look closely, you can see a little apple butter pooled at the base of the jar and a mud-slide looking texture on the side of the jar. This is one of the jars I over filled. Crazy enough, the lid still sealed so I cleaned up the jar and put it in my pantry. Another one of the jars did not seal properly so I placed it in the fridge to eat.

An open jar will last a month or two in the fridge without any problems. When you see anything growing in the apple butter, it's time to throw it out. In my house, it doesn't last long enough to go bad.

So . . . there's apple butter! I'm buying at least 1 bushel of apples from a local farmer here soon and making apple sauce and apple juice. The process is similar and I'll post how that goes in a week or two.

Did you know you can make pear butter, peach butter or most anything you want? What flavor do you want to try?

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