Monday, September 2, 2013

Crockpot Apple (and Pear) Butter

 You won't have to take a trip to Gatlinburg or Cracker Barrel when you find out
how easy it is to make your own apple butter!

I love apple butter. Amanda and Dale brought a jar back from a trip to Gatlinburg and I rationed that stuff out like I'd never get to eat it again.
Last weekend Andy made a trip out to the country to check the fruit on the trees he planted several years ago. While he was out there, he picked a "Wal-mart" sack of Granny Smith and Delicious apples and another of those good gritty pears you can't buy in the stores anymore. I was a little surprised that the apples were ready to pick but they were crisp and sweet or tart, depending on which you ate. I spent the whole day Saturday putting up pickled okra and cucumber relish and had no time to even touch the fruit. Andy ended up having to work all weekend so on Sunday I tackled the two bags...but first, what to make? I knew pear preserves was the first thing I was planning to tackle. We  had already canned several jars of apples and I didn't want to over do it. Apple butter came to mind and I set out to figure out how to fix it while the pears were cooking. I came upon the "Eating Richly When Your Broke" blog and found this recipe for guidance. I veered off the path a little, but her combination of seasonings was right on! Mine was also ready to can in 24 hours and it was pretty smooth so I opted to skip the immersion blender step.

Ingredients: 13.5# apples*
3 cups sugar
3 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. ground cloves

If I'm cooking in the crock pot, it's going to have a liner in it. These things are incredible! No more scrubbing! With this recipe, you'll be so glad you used one. I peeled and cored enough of the apples (see note below) to fill the crock pot. (Remaining apples will be added in after 7-8 hours of cooking) I set the temperature to low and covered the apples with the remaining ingredients.
Be sure to mix the sugar and spices well so that the apples are coated. Every so often, I would give this mixture a stir. After 7 or 8 hours, I noticed the apples were tender, but they weren't breaking down like I thought they would. Now, keep in mind, the apples I used are probably not the most recommended apples, but I'm not going to let them go to waste and this turned out really well! Mmmm, what to do? Potato masher to the rescue! I lightly mashed the apples a little and it was perfect!
So, my first 8 or so hours go by and the cooked apples look really good and the house is smelling wonderful! At this point, I start to peel the rest of the bag when I noticed something my dear husband didn't tell me. The rest of the reddish apples at the bottom of the bag were *pears! Well, when life hands you pears, make apple-pear butter!
This go around I diced the apples (and pears) a lot smaller. Mix them in and let them cook. At this point, I went to bed. I would sample the flavor and see if you need to add any more sugar or spices. It tasted good as is, so I left it alone.
In the morning, this is what was awaiting me when I got up. I gave it a taste and it was wonderful! I couldn't decide if I should just let it go all day on warm while I was at work or go ahead and can it. Because my crock pot seemed to be cooking so much faster than I expected, I decided to can. This was so good I didn't want to overdo it.

I started sterilizing jars, lids and rings and filling my canner with water. Ladle into jars leaving 1/2" head space. This made 12 jelly jars of apple butter. I sealed them with the hot bath method and let them process for 10 minutes. Be sure your jars seal properly before storing them. If they don't refrigerate and use. These started "pinging" immediately so we will be eating this on biscuits all winter. I did have just enough time to fix a few pieces of toast and try out that little "extra" I kept out for testing purposes. :-)

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