I love The Wednesday Chef's blog. She makes testing recipes and writing about food look easy. And its SO nice to know I'm not the only one who treats the Dining Out section like some kind of personal astrological guide for how I should spend my weekend. Of course, since I'm supposed to be making great progress on my Ph.D. coursework this weekend, nothing seems more appealing than starting a huge sticky project in the kitchen. Over the next two weeks I'll kick off my annual canning frenzy of putting up jams and preserves to give as holiday presents, and the apple butter recipe on The Wednesday Chef's blog seems like a perfect starting point. I usually use Joan Hassol's apple butter recipe from Well Preserved; but I'm going to deviate from tradition this year and give this recipe a whirl. Last year I baked a batch of apple butter in a roasting pan in the oven. That way, I only had to stir it every twenty minutes or so, instead of standing over the stove for two hours. I may use that method again this year.
4 pounds of apples, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
Roughly 1/2 gallon of apple cider
2 cups of sugar (I cut this to 1 and 1/4 cups of sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (I would do just 1 teaspoon next time)
1/2 teaspoon cloves (and I'd do a little less than 1/2 teaspoon next time)
Juice of one lemon
1. Heat oven to 225 and place jars (but not lids) on the baking racks. Jars will need to stay in the oven for at least 20 minutes. Wash the lids with hot water and let them dry completely on a clean towel.
2. In a big, heavy pot over medium heat add the apples and enough apple cider to just cover the apples. Bring to a simmer. A bit of a foam will form, you want to skim that off a couple of times. Cook the apples until they are tender throughout, roughly 20-30 minutes. Take the apples off the heat, let them cool for a couple minutes, and then puree in a blender in small batches (don't fill the blender over half full with the hot liquid or you will have a mess) or with an immersion blender directly in the pot. The puree should be the consistency of a thin applesauce.
3. Put the puree back in the big pot over medium heat. Bring puree to a simmer (you need it to hit 220F on candy thermometer). Then, while stirring, slowly sprinkle in the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and lemon juice. Continue to simmer over medium/med-low heat. It takes quite a while from this point until the apple butter reduces and really thickens up, anywhere from 1 to 2 hours (try to keep it around 220F). Make sure you stir regularly, you don't want it to burn or cook to the bottom of the pot. You are looking for the apple butter to thicken up and darken. Towards the end it gets a bit messy, the simmer becoming more lava-like - it also sounds different, lots of plop and slop noises and lots of spattering coming from the pot. Remove from heat.
4. Fill your your biggest, deepest pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. The water level will need to cover the jars.
5. Using tongs carefully remove each jar from the oven and fill to within 1/4 inch of the top with the apple butter. Wipe off rims with a clean dry paper towel. Place a dry lid on each jar and close tightly. Using tongs place each of the jars in the boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Cool on a rack, upside down for the first fifteen minutes, and then right side up until the jars are cool.