One of my favorite Maine fall traditions is apple picking and the subsequent apple sauce, butters, pies and crisps that get made with fresh fall apples. I usually track down a local orchard that has pick-your-own and spend an afternoon wandering through precise lines of trees to select good looking fruit. Northern Spy, Macintosh, Granny Smith… Some are better for sauce, some are better for pies, some I just like to eat right off the tree. It’s one of those quintessential Maine fall activities that I remember from my childhood, and always brings a sense of rightness to the season for me.
Now that it’s edging on towards winter, here’s my recipe for apple butter made with a slow cooker – easy as… pie?
INGREDIENTS: Lots of apples, some apple cider vineagar, spices of your choice (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and allspice are my favorites), sweetener (honey or maple syrup is best)
1. Cook a bunch of apples into apple sauce:
– wash them, cut into quarters (leave the peel and core – this adds pectin and flavor)
– fill a big pot with enough water to cover them, and then add a sploosh (1T or so) of apple cider vinegar
– when they’re soft, drain them, let them cool a few minutes, and then run them through a food mill until you have apple sauce
– spice and sweeten to taste (I usually use honey, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and allspice)
– stir to mix well
2. Make the apply butter by cooking the applesauce in slow cooker:
– on high for 4 or so hours
– leave lid off or significantly cracked (so moisture can escape)
– stir regularly (every ten minutes) and scrape the sides down so the apple butter doesn’t form into goo on the edges of the pot
– check consistency by putting a small dollop on a plate, spreading it out and letting it cool. When it’s the thickness and consistency you like, turn off the slow cooker and let it cool.
This makes excellent gifts when canned in half pint jars, and can be used as cookie or cake filling, jam for toast, hot topping for vanilla ice cream or, if you’re sneaky about it, eating right from the jar as a decadent alternative to apple sauce.