In my last post I was desperately clinging to summer. I wasn’t ready to let go of the smell of sunscreen, the tingle of burns from a day too long on the lake, and the never-ending hours in a summer day. However I must admit, I am prone to changing my mind. Frequently. Today, I am in love with Fall. I just needed a little more time you see. And something to inspire me enough to launch me full force into the fall frenzy. It turns out, a gift of insanely sweet and juicy, orchard fresh, honey crisp apples from a dear family member was just the thing to put a happy close to summer and open the chilly, welcoming door to fall.
I love anything freshly picked. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a fascination and appreciation for food grown close to home, that I didn’t have in the fast paced, take-out, live off caffeine days of college. When my aunt told me she had an overflow of fresh honey crisp apples from an orchard in Bledsoe County Tennessee, I jumped on the opportunity to make something deliciously and thoroughly fall to share with the family. I’ve been eating apple butter since I was a kid out in Washington State. Every fall, my parents would take my brother and I through the mountains to pick fresh apples, eat apple and pear butter, stuff ourselves with aebleskivers (recipe coming soon), and take sleepy, full tummy hay rides through pumpkin patches. It was pure joy. Even today, our eyes light up when someone says apple butter.
There are lots of different ways to make apple butter, but I took an easy, deliciously flavorful route. Having the PERFECT honey crisp apples helps, so be sure to head to your local orchard for this one. This apple butter cooked in my crockpot for 15 hours and made my house smell like thanksgiving morning. Once it was finished cooking, I poured it in a blender to smooth out the consistency, and let it cool before pouring it into little 4 oz mason jars to deliver to family members. I started my crockpot before I went to bed, and the weather for the next day was a 50/50 shot. It could have rained. It could have been dark and cloudy and windy and wet. It could have been extremely hot or frigidly cold. But it turned out to be the most quintessential fall day I could ever have asked for. I spent the evening in my backyard laying in the grass with my camera, toasted bread, thick, smooth, juicy honey crisp apple butter, and beautiful warm light. My pug raced past me every so often chasing bugs and leaves in pure cool-weather sunshiny joy. My husband tossed around the football and talked about how lucky he felt to be where we were and living the life we have. It was perfection. My little family thoroughly enjoying the first of the fall season in the Tennessee Valley. I can only hope that the joy we felt was infused in the delicious little jars of apple butter for our family and friends to enjoy with us.
Honey Crisp Apple Butter
Yield – 3.5 Cups (280z)
10 fresh honey crisp apples
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
Wash and dry all 10 apples. Dice the apples (leaving the skin on) and pour them into a large crockpot.
Add all remaining ingredients and stir to coat all apple pieces.
Set the crockpot on Low and cook for 12 hours. Take the lid off the crockpot and continue cooking for 2 to 3 hours to allow some of the moisture to cook off and thicken the apple butter. Check on the apple butter often during the last two hours. It is done when there are no large chunks of apple and the peels easily tear apart or dissolve. The apple butter should not have standing liquid on top of it (though after it cools, chills, and settles, some juice may separate and surface – simply stir back in. It should be thicker than apple sauce but not as thick as pudding or jam. If you accidentally let your apple butter get too dry or thick, feel free to add a bit of apple cider or water to introduce a little extra moisture – but fresh juicy apples should provide all the moisture you need.
Use an immersion blender directly in the crockpot, or pour apple butter into a large blender and blend until smooth. Pour your apple butter into 7 – 4 oz mason jars and let cool before refrigerating.