Thursday, October 31, 2013

Spiced Molasses Apple Butter

We are enjoying the perfect fall season here in Northwest Washington.


Today, I needed to meditate on the garden. It is an important garden chore, you know. The sun came out, lighting the sky all brilliant blue. The golden light glinted through the dancing red and yellow leaves. The wind scuttled the leaves across the grass and the seagulls and crows swooped through the air, calling calling. A glorious fall day. I went out, planning to just sit on the step with my coffee, staring at the soil with a soft, unfocused gaze and an empty, peaceful mind.


I pulled a weed. It came up easily, revealing beautiful, dark, soft soil. So I grabbed a shovel, moved around some heavy wooden beams left by the last owner, and formed a bed. I turned the soil over: full of earthworms. We will add leaves, our kitchen scraps, some manure and grass trimmings, and in the spring we will we ready to plant. This is satisfying work.


The waiting is delicious.


Then I came inside and ate toast with apple butter made from the apples from our tree. It is this apple butter I actually want to tell you about today. I am thinking about apples a lot lately: what I love about them, and what I love about fall. I love gingerbread, apple crisp, big soft molasses cookies, apple cake, wassail, mulled wine, and walking into a warm house full of these warm spicy scents.


I wanted this apple butter to taste like that. The apples from my tree are sweet, so I didn't add much sweetener: just a touch of molasses, for sweetness and body, and some spices, because it's fall. The resulting apple butter is full of apple flavor and not heavy on the molasses. It can easily be paired with savory dishes like pork chops or roast turkey. I'm enjoying it with peanut butter in sandwiches or on toast with labneh.


Spiced Molasses Apple Butter
makes about 6 cups 

First, make the apple puree:
 8 pounds apples, cored and quartered
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
4 cups apple cider

Peel the apples if desired. Remove the core, quarter them, and place in a large pot with the apple cider vinegar and the apple cider. Cook over moderate heat until the apples are very soft, 20-30 minutes. When cooled slightly, puree the soft apples using an immersion blender(affiliate link) or food processor.

Next, prepare the apple butter:
8 cups apple puree
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Measure the apple puree back into a heavy pot. I use a dutch oven. Add the molasses and spices and cook uncovered at a bare simmer for several hours, until the butter has thickened to your liking and mounds on a spoon. Stir occasionally. Do not allow to burn. When the apple butter has reached the desired consistency, taste for sweetness and adjust the spices, if you like. 

Prepare your water bath, jars, and lids. Fill sterilized 1/2 pint jars with the hot apple butter, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe the rims with a damp cloth, affix the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

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