Friday, September 28, 2012

Crock Pot Apple Butter for Canning

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. 

 Add the two cups of apple cider and two cups of white vinegar, as directed, and set your crock pot on low for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally or as long as it takes for the apples to be soft and cooked through.  You could try the high setting if you want to shorten cooking time.

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.
 Take the apple sauce and put it back into the crock pot.  Add the spices (cloves and cinnamon), according to the NCHFP recipe, and the sugar (wow that's a lot of sugar!) to the pot and stir.  Set it on low again for about two more hours, or until it is thick enough that you can "spoon a small quantity onto a plate. When a rim of liquid does not separate around the edge of the butter, it is ready for canning."  To help the moisture cook off while it thickens in the crock pot, I used two metal campfire skewers to create a big gap all around the lid.  Keeping the lid on this way prevents splatters and lets the moisture out.  You can try a couple of butter knives or bamboo skewers instead, or just leave the lid on skewed sideways, or just leave it off, whatever you like.  I stirred it every once in a while to prevent burning.  At this point you can put it through a blender or use an immersion blender to make it even smoother.  I don't do that though.

Then it's ready to process.  Follow safe canning procedures.  This usually makes 7 pints for me.

Yum-o.  I love apple butter.

1 comment:

  1. I will definitely be trying this out soon!
    I have nominated your blog for the Liebster Award :)