Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Apple Butter #BloggerCLUE

Low slow cooking transforms apples and a little sugar into apple butter by evaporating most of the juice until it creates a smooth, luscious spread that is concentrated appleness personified. And, despite its name, is completely dairy free.

It’s Blogger C.L.U.E. time again, when I get assigned a blog to hunt through to look for recipes which fill September’s “clue” or theme: fall fruit. I’m not ready for pumpkin yet (Is pumpkin even a fruit?) and frankly I’m not a fan of pears so I was hoping that A Mama, Baby and Shar-Pei in the Kitchen would have some apple recipes. I was not disappointed.

The eponymous mama behind the blog is Alice who is a fellow expat, living first in England – before I knew her so I had some catching up to do – then back in the US for a few years, and now she is making a home in Japan. Sadly, her first child, the Shar-pei, is no longer in the kitchen but over the years one baby became two so I am sure her household is just as crazy.

I had a hard time choosing from Alice’s many apple recipes. Tipsy apple pie with rum or her Ever American apple pie? Both looked delicious. Or baked Apple-y Donut Holes? Alice lived for many years in Washington state so she is really, really fond of apples. I was so tempted by her homemade apple chips and her apple cheddar scones as well, but as you can see, I finally settled on apple butter, which Alice makes in a crockpot.

Her original recipe calls for 30-60 apples so I scaled mine back to a more manageable level, but it is so good that next time I just might go all in! Oh, and I also added some lemon just to add a little more tartness because I used only Red Delicious instead of a mix of apples and I subbed ground ginger for cloves and allspice.

1/4 cup or 60ml fresh lemon juice
11 apples - about 4 1/2 lbs or 2 kg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 cup or 200g sugar

Pour your lemon juice into the crockpot.

Peel, core and slice your apples, putting all the sliced bits in the crockpot as you go.

Give it a stir every now and then to mix the apples through the lemon juice.

Add in your spices and sugar and mix well. Alice’s instructions said to cook on medium for 10 hours, stirring occasionally, then turn to low but my crockpot only has two settings - low and high - so I put it on low. She also said that if the apples are cooking down too fast or burning to turn it to low so I figured low was better than high if you only have two choices.

I started a little late in the morning so I turned my crockpot on about 11 a.m. stirring the apples every hour or two all day long. By 9 p.m. that evening, they had cooked down and softened but they certainly weren’t anywhere near apple butter or even applesauce. So, following Alice’s advice, I left them on low overnight.

It was glorious the next morning to wake up to a whole house still smelling of apples and cinnamon. I used my whisk to break the apples down completely into sauce; they were still quite juicy though. You can use an immersion blender, as Alice did, but I found the whisk worked beautifully since the apples were already so soft.

Leave them on low for another few hours, with one change of method. Every time you take the lid off to stir the crockpot, use a dry cloth to wipe the condensation off of the inside of the lid, rather than letting it run back into the pot, which is what I had been doing.

Could I have turned the crockpot up to high at any point in this process to speed things up? Sure, probably so, but I enjoyed the leisurely stirring and the completely relaxed, no stress method more. Because even if I was just reading a book or watching tv, I was being productive! Most importantly, I had time to take a few photos of a spectator outside my kitchen window. I've been reliably informed that he's a bee-eater but he also seems to eat other bugs and ants, bringing them all up to the windowsill and knocking them on the concrete to remove stingers and extract venom.

At the 24-hour mark, I ladled the hot, thick apple butter into sterilized jars. You should do the same to yours as soon as they reach a consistency you like. Remember that the apple butter will thicken up a little more as it cools.

Aside from peeling, coring and slicing the apples, this apple butter feels almost effortless and the full jars make that time spent well worthwhile. Thanks, Alice!

Enjoy your apple butter spread on buttered toast or stirred through some plain yogurt. It also makes a great filling for tarts!

Are you ready for fall fruit? Check out all the lovely recipes my fellow Blogger C.L.U.E. participants are sharing today.


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