Sunday 30 March 2014

Unsweetened Apple Butter YUM!

First, a bit of a story :) Last summer, when I went to Las Vegas, a friend took me for a road trip with camping to El Dorado County Wine region. We camped with Adventure Connection in Coloma, California. They provided two great days of wine-tasting and rafting!On the first morning we got together, talked about our day and departed for the El Dorado County Wine region. We visited 2-3 wineries and then stopped to enjoy a gourmet picnic lunch. 

After lunch we visited another 2-3 wineries and Jack Russell Farm Brewery, where I have been taught a super funny game (especially after all the wine and beer tasting and with really great company;) called Cornhole. 
Playing cornhole game

Jack Russell Brewery  
At the end of the day we headed back to camp for a delicious Barbecue dinner. We have returned to camp with time to enjoy the peace of the river over dinner.
Not dinner but breakfast, still the same beautiful view :)
The next day, after a delicious breakfast, we shuttled to the top of the river for exciting rapids, which included Meatgrinder, Triple Threat and the infamous Troublemaker. I have even summoned the courage to get out of the boat and swim through one of the rapids! Our trip concluded with a big barbecue lunch back at camp.
So, during that first day, one of the wine tasting stops was at the little market like shop called Apple Barn located alongside Carson Road. There were two kinds of wine I have fallen in love with. They tasted so gorgeous! One was Kandi Apple and the other was Apple-Blackberry. I have also spotted an Apple butter amongst huge variety of jars. I have heard about apple butter form movies, internet and so on but have never tasted one. So out of curiosity I bought a jar of unsweetened apple butter and brought it home to London. We LOVED IT! My older daughter finished it in one day... and was asking for more and it is not widely available here in UK... And thats how I decided to attempt to make it myself. I have searched on line for recipes, bought apples, found the over ripened dessert variety on clearance so they cost me almost nothing. And voilà! My kid can't have enough, I make a few jars at a time but they don't last long. Eaten up very quickly :))
So here is what I do: 
I do not have exact measures, never do. Always to taste. Each time you make apple butter, it will taste a bit different depending on the apples you use. The sweeter apples are, sweeter your butter will be.  
 Best buy your apples on farmer markets, where you can taste the apples before you buy. If the apples are bland so will be your butter. 
25-30 apples (depends on how concentrated you want it to be and how long you cook, it makes up to 8 pints of butter).
I start with 1tsp of:
Cinnamon(can use sticks), Ground ginger, Ground Cloves, Ground Cardamom, All spice, Vanilla (in any form you like).
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar as a preservative.
Core and slice apples and put them in the pan as you go. I love using my Ikea apple slicer . It cuts the prep time in more then half.
When it's full put on  low for about 2 hours (as they cook down add the rest of the apples if all didn't fit in in the beginning), stirring occasionally. After 2-3 hours, when apples are soft, I add spices and vinegar. As you see from the pic, I add at least 1 tbsp. of cinnamon, it's great metabolism booster(if you're dieting ;).
OMG The smell in the house is amazing! Who needs air fresheners? After I add spices and vinegar, I cook for another 2-3 hours, until the apple's skins are absolutely soft, and juice is reduced. Again, the time depends on apples, how juicy are they. Just stir and use your judgement. (some recipes call for 10 to 24 hours for cooking!) When you think they are about ready, I use hand blender to blend. I put the arm of the blender straight into the pan and blitz until smooth, just don't forget to take vanilla and cinnamon sticks OUT! Taste and add more spices I think it needs, maybe more cinnamon and cloves. If apples were too sour, and the butter tastes too zingy, I sweeten it with apple and pear spread(highly concentrated no sugar added). That's the one I use. 

But once it is blended, be very careful, it gets stuck to the bottom very very easy. So finish cooking to the consistency you like and don't forget to stir. Once it cools down, it gets thicker. Put in jars. For long shelf period use waterbath canning or similar.
We eat it with bread, crackers, smother cakes with it, use it instead of Apple sauce in baking recipes... By dressing up a jar, it can serve as a very yummy and pretty present.
Enjoy and tell me how it went :) If you liked it or not, if you tweaked the recipe to improve :)

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