Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Slow-Cooker Apple Butter and Apple Sauce

 This is the time of year for all things fall and you will often find apple butter simmering at my house. I don’t can my apple butter, I just make a batch, and we eat it up or give it away. I love the way it fragrances the whole house so I don’t mind making a new batch every few week. With this easy recipe it is effortless to cook a nice sized batch. It makes me love Fall even more!

Here is some Fall Color near our home at Rocky Mountain National Park.

The only real work to making slow cooker Apple Butter and Apple Sauce is prepping the apples. I let the crock pot/slow cooker do the cooking so I don’t have to watch it. Often I throw them in just before I go to bed and let them finish off during the day!

 I do peel  and core my apples,   but I often peel them in one long strip so I can put the peels in the pot until it is done cooking and then just pull them out. If you have a food mill you could cook your apples unpeeled for the same effect. There is a nice flavor in the peels but it is fine to leave them out and still have a yummy result!

How to make Apple Sauce at the same time as Apple Butter

The same basic method is used for making either apple sauce or apple butter in the slow cooker.  Apple sauce is just cooked less time with less spice.When I make apple sauce I sometimes just use apples and a bit of apple cider or juice with perhaps a little lemon juice and a cinnamon stick or bit of spice. If the apples are not sweet enough I may add just a little sugar.  
When I want to make apple sauce at the same time as apple butter I add juice or water and lemon juice rather than vinegar and just a bit of cinnamon and sugar at the beginning of the cooking. For Sauce I usually use the full cup or so of apple juice in the process.  I take some of the apples out for the apple sauce after about 6 to 8 hours  and then add  extra spice and cook the rest of the apple mixture longer for apple butter.

Which Apples should be used

The apples used should be good for cooking with so any good baking apples are great.  I like a variety but choosing only one kind is great too and fun for a flavor change. My favorites are a mix of granny smith for tartness and perhaps honey crisp, when it is on sale, for sweetness with one other such as Braeburn, Jonagold, Pink lady, Jazz, Crispin, Rome, jonathon, winesap  or  gold delicious to round things out. I don't use red delicious which can get mealy and lack flavor for cooking.  I have thrown in a few Gala apples when they are in the basket. I also use any home grown apples I can get my hands on since they are free!  Honestly, any apple with a strong flavor can work in a mix.It is not like pie which requires an apple to hold together after baking.

Uses for Apple Butter 

While apple butter gets used up quickly on things like bread or biscuits there are other ways to use it. Mix it into oatmeal or yogurt. Top pancakes with it. Bake it into muffins. bars, cookies or cakes. 
Apple butter is an easy way to make desserts like apple crisp or apple pie amazingly flavorful, spicy and juicy! Just mix in 1/2- 3/4  cup of apple butter into the raw apples and then continue recipe as usual.

Another delicious but less common use for apple butter is as a glaze for meats such as pork tenderloin, ribs, ham, roast chicken. You can also make a dish of pork chops, chicken pieces or turkey cutlets with apples butter, apples, onions and potatoes. I will post that recipe next.

I have posted an apple butter recipe before but I have made a few changes so here is the updated version.

 Slow-Cooker Apple Butter and Apple Sauce

About 8 cups of apples, usually a variety is nice but one kind is fine-granny smith, honey crisp, Braeburn,  Jonagold , Rome etc  
1 cinnamon stick
½ -1 cup apple juice, cider  or water optional (not everyone adds liquid)
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar OR fresh lemon juice, optional
½ to 1 cup brown sugar, more or less if desired
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp. nutmeg, optional

Prepare apples by peeling. If you want, you can peel long strips so you can leave the peel in for the first half of cooking. Simple remove them after the 6-8 hour cooking time.
Place apples, cinnamon stick, lemon juice and apple juice or water and sugar if you are using it into a crock pot. Cook for 6- 8 hours or so until apples are very soft. Mash apples up a bit with spoon or masher. If you would like to have apple sauce you may remove some of the mixture now and let it cool. You can use a blender if you want to make it smooth or just mash it further for chunky applesauce.
Leave the lid of the crock pot slightly ajar and cook on low for another 3-4 hours until apples are completely softened, thickened and a nice caramel color is achieved. Add extra liquid if needed during cooking process.
Blend with a hand-held Immersion blender or puree in batches in a regular blender. Or you could mash well with a masher.  The texture should be thick and smooth. You may push it through a sieve if it has too many unblended bits.
 If the apple butter is too thin, leave the lid off and the crock pot on high for an hour or so. Or you could simmer on stove in another pan. Basically, the apple butter is done cooking when a ribbon drizzled over the surface keeps it shape.
Serve on biscuits, rolls, baguettes, or other bread or cakes. Stir into cake batter, yogurt,  ice cream or pumpkin pie filling.  Add it to oatmeal. Stir into apples before making apple crisp or apple pie. Use it as a glaze for Pork or chicken. Spread it on a ham, turkey, cream cheese or peanut butter sandwich. Or just eat it with a spoon 

This can be made without crock pot in a large heavy pan. Cook on  low on the stove top, stirring often. I cook it on a bit higher temperature so it gets done faster and I do it during the day so I can watch to pot.  Since you will be opening the lid you will want to use more juice or water. You could also put the apples in a covered cast iron pot or other oven proof cookware and cook over night at 225 F. I usually finish it on the stove top and while I don't recommend it but you could still bake for last part to thicken by turning the heat up to 325 F or so and cook uncovered, stirring and checking often until the consistency is correct.  


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