Last year some friends enlightened me to the fact that there is an orchard about 5 miles away from our house that lets you pick apples for only 40 cents a pound (a real steal around here). My new-ish tradition is using those fresh apples to make apple butter and apple sauce every fall. This is the week that I went last year, so I gave the orchard a call to make sure they were open, only to have the owner tell me that the apples were almost done for the year! He said because of the drought and super-hot temps this summer, the apples ripened early. The only kind left was Empire, which he assured me would be good for applesauce, and Blushing Gold which is a long-lasting variety. So that's what I got.
My two-year-old and I waded through rows of goat's head thorns (note to self, don't wear flip-flops next time) to pick through the mostly rotten apples and find enough to make applesauce. I found 24 lbs worth and took them home.
For canning I always follow the National Center for Home Food Preservation's recipes, because, frankly, I am scared I'll kill my family with botulism if I follow the ones on un-official websites.
Here is a link to their Apple Butter recipe. I use it with my slow cooker. If you don't know what apple butter tastes like, I say it's like a spiced apple jam that tastes a lot like apple cider. I like it on toast or even on a PB&J sandwich.
First, if you have a fruit strainer or food mill, just core and cut up your apples, leaving the peels on. If you don't have a strainer, peel the apples, and then core and cut them. I just wash my apples, chop them with one of those tools that cuts them into wedges and removes the core, and put them into the crock pot. The recipe calls for 8 lbs of apples, and that fills my 6.5 QT crock pot as full as you can possibly fill it without apples falling out. The lid won't fit at first, which is fine because they shrink up as they cook. After an hour or so you should be able to close the lid.
The apples should be thoroughly soft, and your house will smell divine. I asked my husband when he got home from work if he could smell the vinegar, and he said no, he could only smell the cooking apples.
Now it's time to sauce the apples. I have an awesome mother-in-law that gave me this KitchenAid accessory, the fruit and vegetable strainer. This thing is pretty expensive, but if you happen to find one at a good price at a garage sale or something, they are so nice to have. It removes any peels and stems or seeds that are in your batch, and leaves you with yummy apple sauce.
This is how much applesauce it made. I think I got more last year. I should have filled the crock pot just a bit more I think.
Then it's ready to process. Follow safe canning procedures. This usually makes 7 pints for me.
Yum-o. I love apple butter.