Once a year at Hillside Homestead we make the supply of apple butter. We follow a common 19th century apple butter recipe which have no added sugar. It makes sense to do this because we use a thirty gallon copper kettle, an eight foot long paddle and one huge roaring fire! It is a big project and best to get it all done in a day. I have some wonderful friends who come and help me do this and it is great fun to share it with the public! So an annual event was born; The Apple Bee.
It is a fun day for sure and many people attend! In addition to the apple butter making, which includes tastings, there will be historic cooking demos going on inside the farmhouse kitchen. This year we will be making our very popular Rummage Pickle and maybe a few other odds and ends as the day allows. Outside you can visit with all our farm animals, six pigs, eight sheep, one visiting horse (thanks to my dear neighbor Rose Jelinek!) a bunch of chickens and ducks and of course, Gypsy the Goose! Back inside the farmhouse you can take a tour and even linger in the parlour and play a record on the phonograph! The weather looks to be sunny and I hope to see lots of wonderful visitors.
I am often asked if there is a way to make apple butter in a smaller batch. What you mean you don’t have a 30 gallon kettle, 10 gallons of fresh cider and 2 bushels of apples? Yes indeed I do have a recipe for you in a much more manageable ratio and prepared in the ever-so-easy crock pot! So please find that recipe below and I hope you enjoy it! I bought my cider and some of my apples from Christmas Cover Orchard this year! It sure is a wonderful orchard and they feature over 200 antique variety of apples! Plan a visit when you are here in the fall! http://www.christmascovefarm.com/index.html
Traditional Apple Butter in a Crock Pot, Makes about 6 cups
1 gallon of fresh apple cider (not apple juice)
3 bags of apples or about 9-10 pounds
Before you start, a few tips…
1. The Basic Process: Boil down the cider till it is half the quantity, add peeled, cored and sliced apples, let it cook till it is mush and store. Don’t be tempted to skip the boiling down step. Boiling down the cider makes it sweet; as the water evaporates the sugar is concentrated. This will make your apple butter sweeter!
2. The Crock Pot: An oval shaped crock pot about 6 quarts in size is the best type of crock pot to use for this recipe. If you only have the older style, round crock pot you can use that too. The large oval shaped crock pot has a larger surface area for evaporating and thus shorter cooking time; that is why oval is better. This recipe will take many hours to cook in the crock pot.
3. What Apples to Use: Always use apples that are good for cooking not just for eating. I like to use the following varieties: Paula Red, McIntosh, Cortland, Jonathan, Ida Red, Gala, Rome, and Northern Spy. It is also a good idea to use a mix of apple varieties. Apple butter is always better if it is made with different varieties. If you don’t have a scale and/or buy your apples in bulk you may want to know that 4 medium sized apples weigh about 1 pound. Thus 10 pounds of apples would be 40 medium sized apples.
4. Cook down the Cider: Pour the gallon of apple cider into a large pot (large enough so that the cider has plenty of head space) and place on the stove on medium heat. Cover the pot until it starts to simmer. Once it reaches a good steady simmer remove the lid to encourage evaporation and turn the heat down to medium low and stir occasionally. Don’t let the cider boil hard; that cooks it too much and it is not as good. Let the cider simmer until there is only ½ gallon of cider left in the pot. You may find it helpful at the start to measure the cider by making a nick with a knife on the wooden spoon you use for stirring. Once the cider is down half way on the spoon; you know that half has boiled away. Don’t discard any of the scum that may rise or the sediment on the bottom of the pot. That stuff adds a lot of flavor; make sure it gets added to the crock pot!
5. Prepare the Apples: While the cider is simmering peel and core the apples. Cut them into quarters and then each quarter into 3-4 pieces. The smaller the pieces, the shorter the total cooking time. Separate the apples into two groups. One half will be used immediately the half other will be saved for later. You may keep the second half of peeled apples in the fridge. Don’t worry if the apples turn brown, it does not matter in the end because apple butter is brown.
6. Cook the Cider and Apples: Now put the warm boiled down cider into the crock pot and turn it to high heat. Add half of the peeled apples and stir. Put the lid on slightly ajar; so steam can escape as it cooks. Remember the point of apple butter is to remove a lot of water from the cider and the apples till it is thick. So there has to be a way for the steam to escape.
7. Continue Cooking: Now cook the apples until they are mush. This will take several hours. Stir once every hour. If you have to be gone from home for more than three hours during this process just turn off the crock pot and close the lid. When you get home again turn it back on. It is ok for the apples to remain in the pot, on the kitchen counter; and not be cooking. They won’t go bad in a few hours, don’t worry! You can even leave it on the counter when you go to bed. Experiment with cooking times and lengths. I never leave mine on over night, because the pot should be stirred every hour. I love apple butter; but I am not going to get up out of bed to stir the pot!
8. Add Remaining Apples: When the apples cook down to a mush; add the second half of peeled apples and repeat the cooking process.
9. Prepare for the Final Cooking: When the second half of apples is cooked to a mush; I usually remove the apple butter to a large bowl and wash the crock pot. At this point it is usually in need of a cleaning. Then I put the apple butter back into the crock pot for the final cooking. Cook on high heat and stir it once every fifteen minutes or so until it is the thickness you desire.
Storing and Using the Apple Butter…
10. Basic Storage: Now that the apple butter is done, spoon it into canning jars or crocks. Cover with snug fitting lids or a cloth and a rubber band. Avoid storing it in plastic containers, for some reason it does not keep well that way. Store in the refrigerator or in the cold garage or a cold basement.
11. Optional Canning: If you like you may also ‘Can’ the apple butter following standard canning procedures. I would suggest processing the apple butter for 10 minutes in the water bath canner.
12. Traditional Storage: I store mine in crocks with paper and cloth covers and it always keeps well through the winter. This is the very traditional 19th century method and I would be willing to share the process with you. Please feel free to contact me in regards to this
13. Enjoy: Now enjoy it on toast! Or pancakes! Or biscuits! Or Muffins. It is also good to make rye toast, spread with apple butter and then top with cottage cheese! A very traditional breakfast food! I also will be posting a recipe for apple butter custard pie, yummy!
14. Questions: If you have any questions or problems or successes you want to discuss with me please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
15. Revisions to this Recipe: Also please note that I may revise this recipe. I’m always trying to improve things. So check back often. Thanks for reading and wish you lots of success and fun in the kitchen. Remember recipes are only guidelines, feel free to experiment!
Copyright Susan Odom, Hillside Homestead