Yesterday, I told you about stopping to get some apples to make apple butter when we came home from our visit with the in-laws. Those apples look so good, don’t they?
My mother has been making apple butter for as long as I can remember, but I have never tried it. Since I did not have a recipe for it, I decided to google for one, and found several. The one I used is the one found at Pickyourown.org.
I read through the recipe to make sure I had all the ingredients I needed before I started. This is important to know, because even though I had all the ingredients on hand before I started, I soon found out that I did not have all the tools I needed. This proved to be a sore spot later on, as you will see.
To get started making apple butter, the first thing you do is wash the apples. Just use cold water to rinse them off and pick off any leaves still attached. Next, cut them up. The recipe I used said that you did not have to remove the core and seeds, or peel the apples. It said that most of the pectin in the fruit is in the core and peels, so I did not do that. All I did was cut each apple into six to eight pieces and put them in a large stock pot. The pot I have is 16 quarts. It did not hold all of the apples I had.
When all the apples are in the pot, add about an inch or two of apple juice. I used an all natural apple juice with no sugar added, about half of a 64 ounce bottle. Bring the pot to a boil, and stir occasionally. Turn the heat down to simmer, cover, and cook until the apples are soft. This does not take very long, maybe an hour or so.
Once the apples are soft, you will put them through a food mill or sieve to remove the seeds and core. This is where I found out that I needed a food mill. So, I turned the apples off and left them sitting on the stove while I ran to town to find a food mill. I went to Wal-Mart, no food mill. Went to Kroger, no food mill. Went to Dollar General, no food mill. There were no other stores in my little town, so I started home, trying to think in my head what I would do since I did not have a food mill. Then I saw a flea market that was open. I went in, and the first person I talked to had a food mill. It was not a small one like I had been looking for, but a huge monstrosity of a thing that looked like I was going to go into the apple butter manufacturing business to justify having it in my home. But because it was a used thing, I only had to pay $22. She was asking $25 but all I had in my pocket was $22 so she took it. I bet she was glad to be rid of it!
I got home with the monstrosity of a food mill. This thing was supposed to clamp to a table top or counter top. It would not fit on my table or my counter top. I was about to cry, and was getting tired already. I didn’t know what to do. Fabgrandpa came to the rescue, and moved some stuff around on his workbench on the back porch so that the food mill would clamp onto the counter top out there. So it was that I spent an hour or two on the back porch, milling the apples.
The next step after the apples are milled is to put the applesauce into a crock pot or slow cooker with sugar and spices and let it cook overnight. I forgot to take a picture of the crock pot but I am sure you can imagine it: Applesauce up to the rim, with half a bowl of sauce left over, cooking all night long. There was applesauce and apple butter EVERYWHERE! On the kitchen table, on the counter top on the back porch, all over the kitchen counter. And not in jars, honey, just sticky stuff all over the place! This was a super messy job. Finally, it was time to put the apple butter into the jars, seal them and then put them in a water bath canner. The same stock pot I used to cook the apples doubled as the canner. I put the jars in boiling water, put the lid on the pot and let it boil for 15 minutes.
And finally, after all that work, I took 7 pints of apple butter out of the canner, and set them on a towel on the counter. And Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping! They all sealed! I felt so dang proud of myself for making apple butter!
So, here is what I learned. It is a big job to make apple butter. It can be messy. Next time, I would take the time to cut out the core and seeds, and then after the apples are cooked, use a food processor to blend in the peels. That would be much easier and less time consuming than using that mill contraption. I would also get a larger crock pot so that I could fit all of the applesauce in it.
And just as a sidenote, I used half as much sugar as the recipe called for and the apple butter tastes good. I also did not have cloves, ginger, and nutmeg as separate spices, so I used pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon.