When I was little, my parents would pack us in the car for a day trip to Lancaster County, PA – the heart of Amish Country. They’d drag us from store to store, loading up on cheap groceries, great-tasting local milk, bulk bags of old-fashioned oats and dried fruit for my dad’s homemade granola. One of the highlights of the trip for us kids, aside from seeing the horse-drawn carriages and the people dressed in funny clothes, was the store where my parents bought the bulk dry goods. After our initial inspection of the shelves full of row after row of neatly arranged bags of raw cashews, dried apricots, sunflower seeds and who knows what else, we were inevitably drawn to the table that held the free samples of apple butter and apple cider. While my parents shopped, my siblings and I crowded around the table, scooping up way more than our fair share of apple butter with little oyster crackers, and devoured the spicy-sweet goodness.
Since then, apple butter has held a special place in my heart, a comforting yet elusive old favorite. It’s not something I find in most grocery stores, and when I do, it’s too overpriced for me to consider buying it. Every once in a while, my mom would return from their annual trip to Lancaster County with a jar of apple butter for me to take back to college or graduate school, but it’s a rare treat.
Had I known how ridiculously easy it is to make, I would’ve been having apple butter a lot more frequently.
I found this recipe on yumsugar.com, knew at once that I had to make it immediately, and then finally got around to it a year later. Shameful, especially considering how awesome this stuff is. I could eat it with a spoon (and believe me, I have), but I’m definitely looking forward to smearing some on a toasted cinnamon-raisin bagel tomorrow morning.
One word of caution: this recipe takes a long time to make. The majority of the time is hands-off while it’s simmering in the slow cooker, but don’t start this in early afternoon if you want to go to bed early.
Added bonus: this makes your house smell amazing all day long.
5 1/2 pounds apples – peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
Peel, core and chop your apples. Don’t worry too much about the chopping part because they will cook down and you will blend them all down to a saucy consistency later. Toss all the ingredients into a slow cooker (or heavy pot on the stove). Cover and cook on high heat for the first hour. Then turn the heat down to low for 8 to 10 hours. Take the cover off, blend until smooth and turn the heat back up to high for another hour or until most of the liquid is gone. Spoon into jars or freezable containers and pop in the fridge or freezer.
Notes: This can be done one the stove with a heavy pot, as well. Doing it in the slow cooker is just easier since you can throw it in, turn it on, and go have a Saturday adventure without worrying that you’re burning the house down. The one difference for cooking it on the stove: use medium high heat for the first and last hour. Also, I checked on mine every couple of hours, stirring it and making sure it wasn’t burning. When the apples started breaking down on their own, I moved on to the blending step – I don’t think I waited the full 8 hours. Finally, this makes a lot of apple butter – clear out some freezer space or be prepared to give it away to friends and neighbors.