Last month our partner in Arcadia Growers Group gifted us with some fresh, pesticide-free produce. One of the items was a half bushel of red delicious apples. Per their name, they are delicious! But… they’re not very pretty. Pesticide-free means I choose to trade a perfect-looking apple for a perfectly edible apple that might look a little less than appetizing. (They look 10 times better in this photo than in real life!) They polish up decently but with a few soft spots here and there they really needed to be peeled before eating.
I’m not complaining at all – they were worth the 60 seconds needed to peel! But, if I’m being honest, apples are usually a grab-and-go snack at our house so even just the 60 seconds of peeling was enough to keep us from eating them as quickly as we normally would. Besides that, there were so many that I knew I’d need to process some of them before the entire batch went to waste. The problem is, red delicious apples aren’t exactly known for their cooking and baking qualities. Fresh eating? Yes. Baking and cooking? Not so much.
I asked our readers on Facebook what they thought I should do with our apple gift. The best suggestions were making apple chips and making apple butter. Honestly, I wanted to try both (and certainly had enough apples for that) but with the Thanksgiving holiday and simple busyness abounding in our lives lately, the apples sat a smidge too long. They started to get a smidge soft. And making apple chips started to sound a smidge unrealistic.
But… soft apples are right at home in apple butter.
I’ve never made apple butter before. After looking up several recipes, using the crock pot seemed to be the most fool-proof way to go. I found lots of recipes online, many of them with essentially the same ingredients but with slightly different amounts and cooking times. I used all of those recipes as a guide to make my own.
The process takes about 12 hours, mostly hands-free. I realize not everyone has as flexible a schedule as I do. This might be a great Saturday project. Otherwise, you could cut and gather the ingredients the night before, start the process in the morning (7:30 AM) reduce the heat on your way out the door (8:30 AM) and be home in time to add the vanilla bean (5:30 PM). After dinner you’ll be ready to puree and process your apple butter (7:30 PM). The jars will be cool and ready to enjoy for breakfast the next morning!
Crock Pot Apple Butter Recipe
- 6 lbs (8-10) Apples [Note: I ended up using 12]
- 3/4 Cup Granulatd Sugar
- 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Apple Cider or Apple Cider Vinegar
- 2 tsp Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp Cloves
- 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp Ginger
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1 Vanilla bean (or 1 Tbsp vanilla extract)
- Peel and core the apples. Cut them into small pieces.
- Add everything but the vanilla bean to the crock pot. Stir.
- Cook on high for 1 hour.
- Stir the mixture again. When replacing the lid, move it partially so that it remains slightly open. Cook on low for 9 additional hours.
- Slice the vanilla bean down the middle with sharp edge of a knife. Then run the flat edge of the knife down the length of the bean to push out the inside. After 10 hours of cooking, add the vanilla bean and simmer mixture on low for another 2 hours (12 hours total).
- Remove the vanilla bean. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture. (You could also use a blender/food processor and puree the mixture in batches. Be careful not to slosh hot apple butter onto yourself!)
- Ladle hot mixture into sterilized jars. Leave a ¼ inch of headspace. Use a butter knife to press along the inside edges of the jars in order to remove air bubbles. Securely add sterilized lids and bands.
- Process jars for 10 minutes in a water bath canner. Remove jars and set them on a towel or wire rack to cool. Allow jars to cool completely before handling. (If you don’t want to can your apple butter, you can store the jars in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. Freezer-appropriate containers of apple butter can remain in the freezer for two months.)
Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.