WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

Apple butter magic from slow cooker

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I’ve been longing for blueberry pancakes and apple butter since the spring, when my husband and I took a trip to the beach.

We had breakfast at a favorite local spot in Morehead City, The Banks Grill, and requested the restaurant’s homemade apple butter. I spread the butter on my whole grain, blueberry pancakes and was so pleased with the flavor combination.

Since that day, I’ve wanted to recreate that meal, especially the apple butter.

I didn’t grow up eating apple butter. In fact, I don’t remember ever eating it more than a few times. I love apples, apple pie, apple jacks, apple jelly, applesauce, but I have never kept apple butter at home.

I started looking at recipes for apple butter in my cookbooks and online and realized how very simple it is to make apple butter in a slow cooker. You basically cook apples with sugar and spice for many hours until the apples are cooked down.

There are a few decisions to make before you make your apple butter. First, what kind of apples do you choose? Some people use apples they grow at home; that’s not an option at my house! Others use one kind of apple, maybe McIntosh. I decided to use a variety of apples; it’s the same thing I do when I make apple cobbler. I had fun walking up and down the apple aisle at the grocery story and choosing red, green and yellow apples for my butter. I decided on Jazz, Granny Smith, Rome, McIntosh, Fuji, Gala and Cameo apples. I kept weighing the apples until I had around 6 pounds — 10-12 apples depending on size.

The majority of apple butter recipes recommend peeling the apples, but I wanted to retain the fiber and nutritional benefit of the peels. I kept the peels on my apples, except for a few apples that were a little overripe, with tough, wrinkly peels.

Leaving the peels on the apples cuts down on the hands-on time with this recipe, too. (It takes less than 30 minutes to prepare the apples and get this recipe started.) Once the apples are blended, you will not notice the peelings at all.

You can also choose the sugar/ spice combo that works for you. I used 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 cup of brown sugar. I have seen recipes with more than twice as much sugar, but I don’t think that much sweetness is necessary. Some recipes have different ratios of sugar as well, and others use granulated sugar only. I love the flavor brown sugar brings to recipes, so I might add even more brown sugar and less granulated next time.

You can be creative with spices as well. There are recipes that use cinnamon only. I used cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves. It was the right blend for me!

Because it takes so long to cook 6 or so pounds of apples, most people cook the recipe overnight. I did the same. I started the butter around 8:30 p.m., cooking on low. When I woke up around 6 a.m., I was greeted with the incredible aroma of spiced apples cooking! My mouth was watering before I got out of bed and headed to the kitchen.

I took the lid off the cooking apples and stirred the mixture. It had more liquid than needed to be the right consistency — thick enough to spread without being runny. So I left the lid off for about an hour, stirring the apple butter occasionally. Then I used my immersion blender to turn the cooked apples into smooth butter. I let the butter continue to cook on low, uncovered, for another hour or so until it was just right. The timeframe for this can vary, depending on your apples; it might take a lot longer.

Finally, I was ready to try this yummy apple butter. I had made whole grain blueberry pancakes a few days earlier and put the leftovers in the freezer. I warmed one in the toaster and topped it with my apple butter.

I was so very happy with the results! The apple combination was a good one. I’m a fan of mixing apple varieties for a lot of things; you might prefer one variety. The sweetness was just right for me as well. If you use all tart apples, you might decide to add more sugar. But don’t add it at the beginning of cooking time. Wait and taste the apples once they have cooked and been blended. You can add more sugar or spice then, if needed.

This recipe makes a lot of apple butter. I gave away some, put a jar in the refrigerator and froze another jar. I have seen instructions for using a water bath to preserve the food, but I have no experience with that! Sorry.

I really enjoyed making this apple butter. The whole experience was a nice experiment for me and turned into a delicious treat.

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

If you make this overnight, you will wake up to the delicious aroma of apples cooking.

6-7 pounds apples, roughly 10-12 depending on size (I used a mix including Granny Smith, McIntosh, Jazz, Cameo, Gala, Rome and Fuji)

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Slice apples and cut into slices or chunks. I left the peel on most apples, peeling the older apples that had rough, wrinkly peels. Pour into large slow cooker (mine is 8 quarts). Add sugar and spices and stir well to combine and coat apple slices. Cook on low overnight or around 10 hours. Remove lid and stir apples. If there is excess liquid, leave lid off and continue cooking on low for around 2 hours, and the liquid will absorb. When most of the liquid is gone, use immersion blender to combine. Taste the apples and adjust sugar and spices if necessary; mine was just right. If you are not happy with the spreading consistency of the apple butter, let it continue to cook longer to thicken. Store apple butter in jars in refrigerator or freezer.

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