Do you have a special foodie that brings back childhood memories? For me, it’s Apple Butter, hands down. When I put some sweet, tart homemade apple butter on a slice of fresh homemade bread, I am instantly back in my grandmother’s kitchen. I close my eyes and I can see my Grandmother in some sort of 70’s patterned polyester dress, hair in rollers (the little black mesh ones) with a larger than life smile on her face and her loving arms giving me a squeeze.
Grandpa, Grandma and I would sit down at the old metal kitchen table (also some 70’s pattern on it) with the smell of coffee brewing in the air, a steaming cup of oatmeal sweetened with brown sugar and milk thickening up and a slice of bread with apple butter in front of me as grandpa said grace, and read from Our Daily Bread. Apple butter was the taste of love back then, and the taste of childhood memories now.
My Grandmother told me in the days of her childhood, all the women in town would come together to make it. Everyone would bring ingredients, and they would meet up at a farm and make a day of it. It was made in a huge cast-iron kettle over an open fire with barrels of cider and women mashing applesauce through sieves. At the end of the day, everyone had equal shares to take home. How I wish I could have been a part of those glorious days!
Recently, my Aunt Sue on my father’s side was telling me about a similar event. I guess an Uncle did the same thing! Apple butter is a big part of the Pennsylvania Dutch region, along with pretzels, whoopie pies, shoefly pie, funnel cakes, sticky buns and pork & sauerkraut (too many things to list).
There are a lot of great ways to eat apple butter. It’s great on toast, mixed with cottage cheese (<— PA Dutch favorite), used as cake icing and yummy on vanilla ice-cream. The possibilities are endless. I’m thinking about making some polish kolachies and using it as a filling. Yum!
This year, we have an over abundance of apples. I love years when the apples are plentiful. We have a bunch of wild apple trees on our little homestead, and applesauce, cider, and apple butter are great ways to use up tart and tiny apples that would otherwise just rot into the ground. If you don’t have apple trees around, you can always buy apples & cider at local farmer’s markets or even ask neighbors with trees (as long as you share the spoils with them, they are likely to agree, happily.)
The first step in making apple butter is to pick the apples. We normally pick ones that have already fallen off the tree, because we figure those ones are the juiciest ones. If you do this though, make sure you wash them good.
The next step is to make the cider and the apple sauce. We have a homemade apple chopper and cider press that my husband built. The chopper was quite easy to make. Maybe I can get my husband farmer Jim to write about that in another post.
For the applesauce, I clean the apples, put them in a stock pot with a little water and let the steam soften them up. Once they are soft, lucky for me, I have a Kitchen Aid with a sieve attachment to do all the dirty work. You can also get hand crank ones, and ones that just have a cone and a pestle combo. If you want to take the really easy route, you can just buy unsweetened apple sauce from your local grocer.
Here is the recipe:
- 1 gallon of apple cider (boiled until about 2 quarts remain)
- 2 Quarts of apple sauce
- 4 cups of sugar (or 4 tsp of sweet & lo)
- 3 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
Mix all the above ingredients together and cook super slow on low heat until desired thickness. I quadruple this recipe when I make it, FYI.
Here is what it looks like after cooking for about 9 hours. Thick and dark and delicious!
Once it is at desired consistency, put it clean and sterilized canning jars and can in a water bath for approximately 10 minutes. Then, enjoy!