So after eating apples for a week and barely making a dent in my U-pick bushel, it was time to get serious about them.
I needed to reduce my mountain of apples into something I could savor long into the season, but not doctor up with a mountain of sugar.
Hello, apple butter.
Apple butter is like a super concentrated form of apple sauce. The only buttery thing about it is the texture, which after a full day of bubbling in a slow cooker, turns into a smooth and sweet delectable treat. I give my butter an extra special kick with some spices and pears, because all together, they really say autumn to me.
This is best made on a lazy Sunday when you’re hanging around the house, because while you don’t need to tend to the kitchen, you do need to be around to stir the pot once in a while. And as the apples and pears simmer in the slow cooker all day, you’ll probably want to eat your house; it smells so good.
What are some ways you can use apple-pear butter? Think of it like a jam — you can spread it on toast, biscuits and muffins; add a dollop to oatmeal, a spoonful to thumbprint cookies; smear it on a sandwich with turkey and brie; or glaze it over a tender pork butt. Apple-pear butter for breakfast, lunch and dinner? You got it.
Spiced Apple-Pear Butter
Makes 4 pints and 1 half-pint
8 pounds mixed fruit (I used equal parts sweet apples, tart apples, and pears)
2 cups apple cider (or water)
3 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks, broken apart
1 tablespoon whole allspice
The key to this recipe is using the freshest fruit you can find with the perfect amount of ripeness. My apples and pears were so naturally sweet and bright on their own, there was no need for any amendments like sugar or lemon juice. Fresh-picked is the best!
Peel and core your fruit, then chop them up into small chunks. The smaller the chunks, the quicker they’ll cook down.
Fill a six-quart slow cooker to the brim with your chopped fruit. Add in 2 cups of apple cider (or water), cover with a lid, and set your timer to four hours on high heat.
Occasionally give the fruit a stir.
After four hours, the mixture will be a mushy and bubbling pot of gold. I dare you to not sneak a taste while it’s filling your home with all sorts of delicious smells. If you like a smoother consistency, you can puree the fruit with an immersion blender right in the pot. I find that the fruit usually breaks down enough on its own by the time it turns into butter, so I leave it as-is. I like my butters a bit chunky.
Prepare a spice sachet by wrapping a layer of cheesecloth around your cinnamon and allspice, then add that to the pot.
Prop the lid open slightly with a wooden spoon to let the steam escape, then reset the timer to eight hours on low heat.
Give the mixture a good stir every couple of hours to evenly distribute the spice flavoring. Over time, the mixture will start to reduce and brown into a decadently thick consistency. It starts to sputter and spatter more as it’s closer to being done, and by the time your eight hours are up, you should be left with roughly half the amount of fruit in the pot.
Treat yourself to a spoonful!
Then remove your spice sachet, and funnel your spiced apple-pear butter into hot, clean pint jars, leaving about 1/2 inch headspace.
Wipe the rims with a damp cloth, then seal with lids and rings. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting time for altitude as needed. (My recipe made four pints plus a little half-pint dividend, so I processed the pints and enjoyed the half-pint right away!)
Alternatively, you can simply let them cool to room temperature and then refrigerate them or freeze them. Processed jars will keep for over a year in a cool, dark pantry, while unprocessed jars in the fridge will keep for at least a month or two. Since apples have a high amount of natural acid, the butter will have a fairly long shelf life. Likely you’ll use it all up before then!