I knew it was coming, but over the weekend it happened: our freezer is now totally full. Not a scrap more of frozen beans, cauliflower, bacon or ground bison will fit.
We are blessed to be presented with this problem, of course, but it is still a problem. See, I went and bought about nine pounds of Goodland apples at the farmers’ market, and now I had nowhere to put them. The intention was to peel, core and slice them, toss them with sugar and spices, portion them out into freezer bags and then freeze them for making apple pie this winter. Our little freezer space problem nixed that idea.
So I turned to plan B: making apple butter and canning the results.
Canning is one of those devoted foodie things that I love the idea of, and I love the results, but – my gosh, it is a pain in the ass to actually do. It involves either using a pressure canner, which scares the daylights out of me, or boiling a huge pot of water on the stove during the hottest part of the summer. Then you have to clean and sanitize the jars, sanitize the lids, cook your food, fill the jars, process them, and then give up precious counter space for a full day while they cool.
But you know what? I do it anyway. I do it because I love opening a jar of summer while a blizzard howls outside. Eye on the prize and all that. If you’re interested in getting started doing canning yourself, I recommend reading the tutorials on the Bernardin website or at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Or if you prefer blogs about canning, there are two that I like: Well Preserved, written by a couple in Toronto, and Food in Jars, written by a lady in the US.
Apple butter is a fruit butter, which means that it’s basically apples cooked down with sugar and spices until the sugar caramelizes and the mixture becomes thick. It’s a staple condiment in the heart of Amish country, near where I grew up, but I was surprised to discover that it’s relatively unknown in Winnipeg.
I’m well versed in ways to eat apple butter, but this was my first time making it. I probably could have cooked it down further, but I wanted to go to bed sometime before 1:00am. I basically ended up with a thick, spreadable applesauce; not exactly what I wanted, but close.
I think next time*, I’ll cook it down in a crockpot. If you cook it long and low with the crock’s lid tilted slightly, you apparently get a much more consistent texture (and you don’t have to spend all evening stirring a pot).
Recipes for apple butter vary, but here’s what I did:
- About 9 lbs of Goodland apples (three bags), peeled, cored and sliced
- 1/2 cup apple cider
- 2 TB apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
In a stainless steel pot of boiling water, cook the apple slices until they’re tender. Drain.
Return the apples to the pot and put the pot over low heat. Add the apple cider. Smash the apples into a chunky paste with a spoon and bring to a “boil” for about 20 minutes. This will be a popping, spattery, mess-making boil. Don’t cover the pot, though, because you need the liquid to cook off.
Add the vinegar or lemon juice, sugar and spices. Stir well. Cook over low heat until the mixture reaches the desired consistency. (This could take 1-2 hours.) Puree the apple butter mostly smooth with an immersion blender, or work out your frustration by mashing pieces against the side of the pot with a spoon.
Using proper canning techniques, fill 125ml jelly jars and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.
*Yes, next time. I am such a masochist.