When I think of fall, my mind goes to sharpened pencils, pumpkins, corn mazes, haystacks and, of course, apples. Fall is the time of year to get yourself a bushel of apples and enjoy them anyway you please! Sliced with honey, dipped in peanut butter or mashed up as applesauce! There are dozens of ways to eat an apple.
I wanted to share with you an easy recipe for Apple Butter that is oh so yummy. It can also be used for a great homemade wedding favor (“We picked this just for you”) for all you Fall brides… but first let’s talk apples!
BUY LOCAL! Every region of the country has its own distinctive apple varieties, and a visit to the orchard will help you discover which ones are best in your area! When you buy local produce, you support local growers and get the freshest apples available! Buying fruit at the orchard is a lot more fun than pushing a shopping cart. Here is a website where you can go to find a local orchard near you: http://www.pickyourown.org/apples.htm
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: You want an apple that has smooth skin with few bruises. Too many bruises mean the apple may rot. Choose apples with a bright and sparkly color.
DON’T BUY BAGGED APPLES, I DON’T CARE IF THEY ARE ON SALE. Apples arrive at stores preserved with nitrogen. After the nitrogen seal is broken, produce managers know they have 23 days to sell the apples. They bag apples for a quick sale after they hit about the 20 day mark.
STORING APPLES. My mom always stored her apples in the fridge. I like a crisp and cold apple that crunches when I bite into it! But… it also turns out that by storing them in the fridge keeps them fresh longer! Put them in a clean and sealed plastic bag, poked with a dozen holes. That allows ethylene gas to escape but also helps the apples retain moisture.
PRO Tip: I hate when my apple slices turn brown! My friend, a chef, told me that the higher the sugar content of the apple, the quicker the cut apple turns brown. He suggests that to prevent this, squeeze lemon juice on top of the apples or place in water with lemon juice!
APPLE VARIETIES: Are you like me at the store and just stare at the dozens of apple types… wondering what the difference is? I like it when stores have the description of each… but here is a little more detail to help you brush up on your apple knowledge!
- Golden Delicious is the “BAKING APPLE”. It has a firm, white flesh and sweet crisp flavor. It is the preferred “all purpose” cooking apple since it retains its shape and rich, mellow flavor when baked or cooked. Its skin is so tender and thin that it doesn’t require peeling for most recipes. Golden Delicious is very good in fresh salads and freezes well. Available September through June. Refrigerated storage time: 150 days.
- Fuji is the “MIXED APPLE”. This apple’s spicy, crisp sweetness and firm flesh make it an excellent fresh eating apple. It’s also good in baking or applesauce and stores well. Fuji flavor improves in storage like fine wine. Fuji skin color varies from yellow-green with red highlights to very red. It was bred from a cross between Red Delicious and Ralls Janet varieties in Japan. They are available year round, beginning in September.
- My “HEART APPLE”, the Gala. This is one of my absolute favorites for eating. It is heart-shaped with distinctive yellow-orange skin with red striping. Gala is just the right size for snacking and is great in salads, good for baking and very good in applesauce. Available September through June.
- The “TART APPLE” Granny Smith. It has a crisp mouth-watering tartness. Bright green Granny Smith has a pink blush. Its tartness really comes through when baked and sautéed. Try it slicked and cooked with a pork loin! Available all year long. Refrigerated storage time: 240 days.
- The “CIDER APPLE”, Winesap is the apple with old-fashioned flavor. Winesap has a spicy almost wine-like flavor that makes it the cider maker’s first choice. Violet red in color, it’s great as a snack and in salads. Available from November through May. Refrigerated storage time: 220 days.
- The “BAKER’S APPLE”, Rome apples mild flavor grows richer when baked or sautéed. Rome has smooth, blazingly red skin with sweet, slightly juicy flesh. Available November through May. Refrigerated storage time: 220 days.
- The “SPICY APPLE” Jonathan: Spicy and fragrant, juicy, sweet-tart, all-purpose cooking! Available September through February. Refrigerated storage time: 120 days.
- The “CANADIAN APPLE”, the McIntosh is Medium-sized, crisp, tart-sweet, bright red skin sometimes tinged with green, all-purpose but doesn’t hold up to lengthy cooking, discovered in the late 1700′s by Canadian John McIntosh, available September through March.
- The “BASIC APPLE”, the Red Delicious: Large, brilliant red, sometimes streaked with green, elongated shape with five distinctive knobs at its base, juicy, sweet, no distinguishable tartness, recommended for hand-eating but not for cooking, available from September through April. Refrigerated storage time: 160 days.
HOMEMADE APPLE BUTTER
PREP TIME: 30 Minutes
COOK TIME: 11 Hours
In contrast to what the name implies, there is no “butter” in apple butter. The name comes from its smooth and buttery texture. Apple butter is delicious on buttered toast, swirled in oatmeal, smashed with peanut butter for a sandwich or added to cottage cheese!
5 1/2 lbs apples – peeled, cored and finely chopped
4 c white sugar (If the apples are already quite sweet, reduce the sugar or replace it with honey!)
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/4 tsps ground cloves
1/4 tsps salt
Easy Slow Cooker Directions
- Place the apples in a slow cooker. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Pour the mixture over the apples in the slow cooker and mix well.
- Cover and cook on high 1 hour.
- Reduce heat to low and cook 9 to 11 hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and dark brown.
- Uncover and continue cooking on low 1 hour. Stir with a whisk, if desired, to increase smoothness.
- Spoon the mixture into sterile containers, cover and refrigerate or freeze.
- If you are using as favors or gifts then you should wrap some gingham fabric over the top and secure it by tying some twine around it and add a hang tag with your personal note!