Sunday, November 13, 2011

Apple Butter

Simple, Lovely Breakfast

I promised I’d be posting a few more apple recipes up here, before the season’s through. I think I even mentioned apple butter specifically.  And so, this weekend’s to-do list – along with re-organizing the pantry closet (I love organizing!), dusting the floor boards (worst chore ever!), writing a prep list for an upcoming catering gig (super booked holiday season, yay!), and finishing the last few rows of a knitted scarf for Ben (it turned out really cool!) – included keeping that promise.  So all day yesterday, I tended a gently simmering pot of apple butter,  making my way back and forth between the stove and my other tasks, as the slowly thickening sauce bubbled away.  Sure, it’s a recipe that takes hours and hours, but as you can tell from the impressive productivity (if I do say so myself) of my rare Saturday off, it doesn’t take all that much attention or effort.  This ease factor, combined with the smooth deliciousness of the end result, makes all that time (about seven to eight hours total) more than worth it.

Apple Bowl

So… Apple butter.  Some of you may be surprised that, while apple butter does contain apples (and lots of ‘em), it has no butter in it at all.  It shares that smooth, spreadable consistency of butter, and that same silky mouth feel, so I’m pretty sure that’s where its confusing name came from.  Mainly, apple butter is nothing much more than apples (and of course some sugar too), cooked into a sauce, then simmered and simmered until it thickens and caramelizes into a sweet, dark, sticky sauce.  Kind of like a caramel apple, in a spreadable form!  

Apple Peeling

This morning for breakfast, along with some thick-sliced applewood-smoked bacon and shirred eggs, we had toasted English muffins slathered with our new, gorgeous apple butter.   (And a little melty butter too, which soaked so charmingly into those lovely muffin nooks.)  Great bacon lovers both of us, Ben & I were nonetheless unanimous over which part of breakfast was our favorite – those sweet, buttery English muffins, to be sure.  So perfect.  But when if comes to all the ways apple butter can be used, I’ve got to say, we went with just about the most boring option possible, this morning.  Along with spreading over toast or muffins or biscuits, the possibilities of apple butter are nearly endless - served alongside grilled pork, or added to a sauce for pan-roasted chicken, swirled into oatmeal, dolloped atop pancakes, blended into yogurt, slathered inside a grilled cheddar cheese or a roasted turkey sandwich, subbed for jelly in a PB&J… oh man, I can hardly stop imagining all the delicious ways to use this awesome stuff!

Peeling & Slicing Apples

I really hope the time commitment doesn’t keep you from trying this recipe!  The golden goodness you’ll have at the end, not to mention the intoxicating orchard-like smell that will fill your home all day long, will have you convinced in an instant, that all was worth it!  For those of you up for giving it a whirl, happy simmering!! 

Granny Smiths & McIntoshes

Apple Butter
Makes about 1 quart
Apple Butter with English Muffins
2 quarts apple cider
3 pounds Granny Smith apples
3 pounds sweet red apples, such as McIntosh
2 cups granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Pour the apple cider into a very large pot (Not a stock pot.  You want one that is wider than it is tall.), and simmer, uncovered, over medium-high heat until reduced to about 2 cups, about 45 minutes to an hour.  From time to time, collect with a spoon the frothy scum that gathers at the top, and discard.
While the cider simmers, peel and core the apples, then slice into large chunks.  Set aside until needed.
When the cider is reduced, add the sliced apples, and give it a stir.  Bring to a simmer, then cover the pot and continue to simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples break down into an apple-sauce consistency, about 1 hour. 
Remove the lid.  Add the sugar, salt and lemon juice, and stir to combine.  Adjusting the heat to maintain just a bare simmer, continue to cook, uncovered, and stirring as needed, until the sauce reduces to a thick, spreadable consistency, and the color turns deep golden brown, about 6 to 6 1/2 hours. 
Two notes:  While you only need to give this a stir every 20 minutes or so for the first few hours, as time goes on, you will need to stir more frequently, even as frequently as every five minutes towards the very end.  Also, when it comes to judging when this is done, you just have to trust yourself.  All of a sudden, the sauce will take on a shiny, stretchy quality, and it will be perfectly done.  You’ll know it when you see it. 

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