I know this photo looks pretty much exactly like the one for pear butter, but it's just a trick of the light, I swear! The apple butter is a much darker shade of brown.
I’ve been making and canning this apple butter from Simply Recipes as a holiday treat for at least three years now and am always pleased with the results—sweet, tart, and spiced, with a velvety consistency, great on toast, on pancakes, or in oatmeal. Apples are cheap and plentiful at this time of year (I usually use Fujis because I can buy seconds—small and slightly flawed but perfectly tasty—at the farmers’ market for $1.50 a pound); the recipe is clever (I love that you initially cook the whole apple, peel, core, seeds, and all, to maximize the flavor and natural pectin content) and fairly easy, although I can always be heard swearing when it comes time to put the boiled apples through the food mill. Why does it seem that I need three hands to work a food mill effectively (one to turn the crank, and two to hold it steady so it doesn’t jump around)?
This year I finally bought my own food mill ($25 at Bed Bath and Beyond with their 20% off coupon), after always having to borrow one in the past. I’m a bit reluctant to own such an infernal device, plus it seems silly to have a largish kitchen item that I’m only going to use once per year (although by that token, I wouldn’t have a cookie press, either), and it feels redundant to now possess four different machines for pureeing food (although unlike the blender, small food processor, and immersion blender, the food mill has the obvious advantage of straining out peels and seeds). Ideally, I’ll find a few more uses for the food mill (I could have used it on the pear butter, for starters), but even if I only ever use it for my annual batch of apple butter, it'll earn its keep admirably.
By the way, this is officially my last canning project until 2010 (sigh), both because I need to concentrate on holiday baking and because all those little glass jars are threatening to take over the apartment.
4 pounds good cooking apples (e.g., Granny Smith or Gravenstein; I used Fuji)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
Sugar (about 4 cups; see cooking instructions)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon allspice
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
1. Prepare jars and closures as in steps 1-2 here.
2. Cut the apples into quarters, without peeling or coring them (much of the pectin is in the cores and flavor in the peels), and cut out any damaged parts.
3. Put the apples into a large pot, add the vinegar and water, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook until apples are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Ladle apple mixture into a chinois sieve or food mill and force pulp through the sieve or mill into a large bowl below. Measure resulting puree. Add ½ cup sugar for each cup of apple pulp. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add a dash of salt, and the cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, lemon rind, and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
5. Cook uncovered in a large, wide, thick-bottomed pot on medium-low heat, stirring every 5 minutes to prevent burning. Cook 1 to 2 hours, until thick and smooth when a bit is spooned onto a cold plate and allowed to cool.
6. Fill jars and process for 10 minutes, as in steps 7-9 here.
Yield: 14-16 4-ounce jars
Time: 4 hours
Leftover potential: Yes!