Every year, for the past 25 or so years, I have made apple butter to give as holiday gifts - oh, and of course, for the DH and myself. Most all of the gifts we give are homemade - fruit butters, shortbread and other cookies, some kind of candy and needlework ornaments or trifles. I really enjoy making these goodies despite the work involved. If I'm honest, it's much better than fighting the mobs in the stores!
But apple butter - oh, it is truly a labor of love! My little condo cottage is filled with the scent of apples and spices, and it lingers for days. Even the canning process is delightful, especially when I remove the jars from processing; after a minute or two I hear that little ping as each jar seals. The apple butter fairies are at work!
Of course, other jams and fruit butters are prettier - the apricot butter I make is like sunshine in a jar, golden yellow and the taste!!!! Apple butter is this brown stuff - from all the spices - but lift the lid of the jar and the scent of those spices dance with the fragrance of the fruit. One can't help but believe it is the ambrosia of the gods.
Peeled, cored and chopped! Into the pot, where cider has boiled away to half its measure, concentrating the flavor; the apples cook until very tender. Ah... the sweet smell of honeycrisp apples! Then more work - all of the cooked apples are put through a food mill - manual labor! I'm not kidding, hand cranking that food mill, I have to keep switching arms!
The apples, saucy consistency are placed back into the pot with sugar and spices. I am lucky enough to have a neighbor who brings me real cinnamon bark right from his trees on one of the islands near South America. Amazing stuff. This year he brought me nutmegs as well which will season my homemade eggnog.
Cooked and cooked more; a bit onto a chilled plate from the freezer to check consistency - all was just as it should be. Then, onto ladling the apple butter into jars. I had to process two batches, but ended with...
nine half pints and two quarter pints - I do love those little jars! One half pint went directly into the fridge unprocessed and we have been enjoying it on toast. It is quite good on shortbread too - real shortbread. My family's shortbread recipe was given to us by a very elderly Scottish lady. My mother was, for some time, a lay minister of the Holy Communion in the parish to which she belonged. She took communion to this elderly lady every Sunday and spent time chatting and drinking tea with her. The woman gave my mother her recipe for shortbread - the real deal - butter, flour and sugar, that's all. We've been making it for years. I am famous for that shortbread and the apple butter too, LOL!
To be honest, the shortbread is, if you will pardon the pun, a piece of cake to make! Very easy and the aroma while it bakes... ooh, delish! Oh, one other thing I use that apple butter for: pork tenderloin! I coat the pork with the apple butter and roast - yummy!
Fruit butters are really the easiest of jams to make. You measure your fruit after putting it through the mill and use a half cup of sugar for each cup of milled fruit. I always leave out the last half cup of sugar, only adding it if needed. Depending on the sweetness of the fruit or lack there of, sometimes you may need more. Taste and add as you like. As for the spices... it's all up to you - how much you prefer. Very easy!
In any event, the apple butter is prepared, mellowing in the pantry, one holiday chore complete.
Inside me live a skinny woman crying to get out,
but I can usually shut her up with shortbread and apple butter.
author unknown, but that little end bit was adapted by yours truly!
P.S. Excuse the abundance of exclamation points in my writing. I can't help myself, something or other always inspires such enthusiasm, they are the only way to express all that emotion! (There I go again!)