Recipe Monday: Apple Butter, a Fall Favorite!

Riding high on the success of my honey sweetened white peach jam, I decided to do some more canning.  Only this time, I went with a fall favorite, apple butter!  J and I both love apple butter.  We use it often times in place of jams or preserves, and I usually mix it into my oatmeal during the winter.  Plus, most of the time, it has a lot less sugar than preserves, and fewer calories, but still tons of flavor.  Also, if you look at the ingredients, it’s usually only apples, water, and sugar.  Pretty simple, and I can pronounce and understand all these ingredients, so I call it a good day!

home preserving bookI decided to modify a recipe out of the Ball Home Preserving book.  They have a few different recipes in there for apple butter, and their main recipe calls for apple cider.  I took their traditional apple butter, but instead of the sugar that it suggested, I sweetened it with honey.  I prefer the taste of honey as a sweetener, over sugar, plus there’s a lot less processing going on with the honey.  I also made a half-batch, as compared to a full batch, because I didn’t want to have a ton of it lying around (because, let’s be honest, I’ll just eat it with a spoon).

apples_slicedI started with Honeycrisp apples, because they’re absolutely delicious.  Plus, they’re enormous, so I don’t have to peel as many apples as I would if I used the smaller ones.  Then, I cored and sliced up the apples, before putting them in a skillet with water to cook down.  This process took awhile…maybe 30 minutes.  I gave it a stir every now and then, and spent the time working on a homemade Spanakopita for dinner (next week I’ll tell you all about that recipe…divine!).  Really, at this point, you’re just waiting for the apples to cook down and get soft, so not much effort goes into this step.

food processor applesAfter you’ve cooked down the apples, you can either use an immersion blender to blend them up, or if you’re like me and don’t have one, you can put them in the food processor.  Do this in batches if you’ve got a lot…since I had a half-batch, I only needed to break it up into two batches for the food processor.  You don’t want to liquefy the apples, but do break them up until they’re smooth.  That said…this is YOUR apple butter…if you like it chunkier and less “buttery” then you go ahead and process to your desired texture.  “You do you, boo!” is my motto.

Once you’re done blending/processing to the texture you want, put it back into a clean skillet.  I don’t have many skillets big enough, so I just washed and dried the one I already used, and put it back in there.  Add the honey and spices, and bring up to a gentle boil.  Now, listen to me, because this is important.  If you have a canned apple buttersplash guard, USE IT HERE!  Nothing says 2nd degree burns like being splashed with boiling applesauce.  It’s not fun, save yourself the pain.  You’ll want to reduce down the apple/honey/spice mixture until it’s thick and doesn’t separate from the liquid when you place a spoonful of it on a plate.  I did this for nearly an hour, because I wanted the apple butter to be very concentrated.

After that…can as normal!  I got 2 half-pint jars out of this recipe.  I probably could have gotten 3 jars out of it, but I wanted some of the apple butter immediately, so I didn’t bother canning the last bit.  I’m really excited to bring this out this fall and use it in the mornings.  Plus, I think I’ll can up some more to give away as presents for Christmas (along with the Peach Jam I made last week).  Who doesn’t love food presents?!

Much love,
K.

Recipe Monday: Honey Sweetened White Peach Jam by Food in Jars

After several years of talking about how I’d like to start canning, I finally broke down and decided to do more doing and less talking about canning.  Last year, I thought I was ready to take the plunge.  I had bought more jars than I knew what to do with, as well as all the other necessary equipment, and then let it collect dust in our spare bedroom closet for another year.  Finally, yesterday, I decided that today was the day, and I stuck to it.  Since this was my first time ever canning anything, I decided to start small and simple.  Jams seemed like a good place to go, and I recently came across a blog that had tons of different canning recipes (Food in Jars, which I talked about here).  I was perusing Marisa’s recipes, when I came across the motherload!   Honey Sweetened White Peach Jam…HOLY CRAP!  First…I love honey.  LOVE honey.  Second…I love peaches.  LOVE peaches.  It was like a match made in heaven, and also made for me.  Naturally, I decided that this would be my first leap into the adventures that come with canning.

Honey Sweetened White Peach Jam
from Food In Jars

Ingredients: 

  • 2 pounds white peaches
  • 1 lemon
  • 8 ounces honey

First, I prepped my jars and lids.  Since all my supplies were brand new, I washed the jars, lids, and rings in warm, soapy water.  I then grabbed my water bath pot (which is actually my biggest stock pot I own) and put a small rack in the bottom to keep the jars elevated.  I put the jars on the rack and filled up the pot with water (I also put water in the jars, to keep them from floating).  I brought the water level up to the top of the jars, put the lid on it, and brought it to a simmer.  While I was waiting for the jars to come to a simmer, I put the lids in a small saucepan, which I also filled with water, and brought those to a simmer as well.  Both of these pots were left simmering until I was ready to use the jars and lids.  The screw tops didn’t need to be kept in simmering water, so I just let those dry on a clean towel.

IMG_9336Then, I began with my ingredients.  I started with white peaches (shocking, based on the recipe name).  I found some beauties at the local produce shop, and was excited to get them home.  I peeled them with your random, everyday vegetable peeler, and nearly bit into one right then and there because they smelled so good.  But, I held myself back, and managed to finish peeling.  After the peaches were peeled, I grabbed a lemon and peeled that as well, the chopped up the peel into pieces.  The recipe calls for you to cut it into strips, but I got lazy and just chopped it up into pieces.

IMG_9338Once the peeling was finished up and out-of-the-way, I pitted the peaches and cut them into slices.  I tossed those into a bowl and covered with the honey, letting the peach slices soak up the honey for a bit.  I wasn’t really sure how long to let this go, so I basically let the fruit sit in the honey for 15 minutes before calling it “good enough” and tossing in the lemon peel pieces.  After that, I stirred it all up, then put the mixture into a large skillet on my stove.  I brought that up to a boil and let it reduce.  Mine took a bit longer than the recipe called for, closer to 15 minutes before it was ready to be put in the jars.

IMG_9340One thing I am so glad I broke down and bought was a funnel for the jars.  At first I thought, “eh…why would you need that, a steady hand should be fine!”  Umm…no.  If your inner voice is saying that, don’t listen to it.  Get the funnel.  That $4 will make your life SO much easier!  So, I used my handy-dandy funnel and scooped the mixture into two half-pint jars.  I made sure to release the bubbles around the inner edges, then wiped clean the rims on the jars, then placed on my lid.  Using my hands, I screwed on the screw tops just until there was resistance.  I put the jars back into the water bath (where I was simmer the jars before I filled them) and filled it with enough water to cover the jars by at least an inch.  I put the lid back on, then brought it back up to a boil, then started my timer for 10 minutes.  One thing I’ve read about canning is to make sure that the water continues at a rapid boil for the full-time the recipe calls for processing.  If it stops boiling, you have to bring it back up to a boil and restart the timer.  So, with that in mind, I kept a close eye on the water to make sure it continued to boil.
IMG_9344After waiting and watching for 10 full minutes, I turned off the heat and took off the lid.  My canning book said to let it sit in the water for another 5 minutes to let the contents settle, then you can get it out and let it rest for 24 hours to let the seal develop.  I wanted a place where the cats couldn’t get their paws on the glass jars, so into the microwave they went, with strict instructions to J not to open the door or turn on the microwave.  The last thing I wanted was for all my hard work to go to waste!

I won’t lie…there were a few leftovers in the skillet when I was finished.  Just to test the quality (I swear, it was only to make sure it was edible!) I waited for it to cool and took a bite.  HOLY WOW!  If the preserves are only a quarter as good as what I had, I can’t wait to dig in!  I have big plans for these preserves…I think they’ll be a great addition to my morning oatmeal once it gets cold outside.  Plus, I think they would be perfect as an appetizer for a dinner party!  I’m thinking crusty french bread, a slice of brie cheese, and a dollop of the honey sweetened peach preserves.  Sigh…my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

There you go, my first foray into canning!  I hope you enjoyed the adventure with me, and I highly encourage you all to go to Food in Jars to see what Marisa is up to!

Much love,
K.