Autumn is a delight to the senses: The feel of cool mornings that beg for sweaters and fuzzy slippers; the smell of painted leaves collecting on moist ground, a decay that feeds the forest from its floor; low hanging clouds and grey skies that wrap around the afternoons; and the taste of squashes and apples, ripe from a summer of sun.
One of my favorite autumn rituals over many years past has been baking apples. That has to be one of the all time great smells that can permeate a house. Red delicious, in my opinion, makes the best baking apples. Since this year marks my first autumn in a new town, it seems fitting to forge some new memories. When I heard about making apple butter in a crock-pot, I was eager to try. And the idea of sharing apple butter with my neighbors is equally compelling.
So here is my journey, and honestly it turned out pretty well! I carefully chose 14 organic apples of a mixed variety– honey crisp, red delicious, granny smith and galas. As with many recipes that I find, I adapt them to my personal bend, so I did not peel the apples–after all the vitamins in the skin. My 4-quart-crock pot holds about 14 apples, cored and chopped into chunks and it is overflowing. As the apples cook, they reduce, so it’s not like you are going to wind up with 4 quarts of apple butter.
12-14 cored and chunked organic apples — don’t bother to peel ‘em 1 cup of organic apple juice (No Sugar Added) ½ tsp. of nutmeg ½ tsp. vanilla 1 heaping tsp. cinnamon ¼ tsp. ground cloves
Put everything in the crock-pot and slow cook for 10 hours. After 10 hours, cool things off until you can easily pour the contents into a good blender or a VitaMix. Blend until smooth and then transfer back into the crock pot. At this point I suggest that you put the whole pot into the fridge and go to bed. The next morning, put the crock-pot back on and cook again for two to three hours. The darkness and thickness depend upon how long you cook. Leave the lid slightly ajar to avoid splatters. When things are cool enough to touch, ladle the apple butter into 4 oz. jars and screw on the lids. Unlike “canning” that allows you to create a shelf life for your wares, this apple butter should be refrigerated and will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge. Let people know that if you give any away. I came away with ten little jars and enough left over to indulge my husband and myself in a really good taste–something akin to licking the frosting spoon.
Serve on muffins, toast, waffles or pancakes. Share with neighbors and friends so everyone gets to enjoy and you don’t end up being a little piggy.
This is my new autumn ritual and I think it’s a good one! Do you have autumn rituals that you look forward to each year–or ones you would like to instate? Feel free to share…I’d like to hear them.