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Big Sky Bites: Crock Pot Apple Butter

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Mira Brody EBS ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR

The uses of apple butter are endless. The fruit spread is a flavorful addition to English muffins, toast, crackers or a peanut butter sandwich, even adding a sweet kick to pork chops and chicken. With roots in Belgium and Germany dating back as far as the Middle Ages, apple butter isn’t actually a butter at all, but rather a preserved fruit spread in the same family as jam. However, unlike jam, it does not need pectin, acquiring its butter-like consistency from the caramelization of the natural sugars in the primary ingredient—apples.

Another benefit to apple butter is its ability to be canned for an extended shelf life. Canning has long been a way to preserve foods, and while we limit our grocery store visits and discover family-friendly activities to pass the extra time at home, canning could become your new jam.

This recipe utilizes a crock pot, but if you don’t have one a large pot on a stove works just as well. For this recipe, prep four 8-oz. jars. Gala, Fuji and Honeycrisp apples have great flavor and I added a few Granny Smith apples for tartness.

Ingredients 

6 pounds apples (about 20) peeled and sliced (an apple corer works great, if you have one)

3 cups white sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Crock pot temp: High

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 4-6 hours

  1. Place your peeled, cored and sliced apples in the crockpot and top with the sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Give it a stir, cover with a lid and set to high.
  2. After about four hours (if your apple slices are thicker, you may need to cook longer) it’s time to blend! You can use an immersion blender directly in the crock pot, or transfer in batches to a blender.
  3. Once all your apples are blended smooth into an applesauce consistency, return to the crock pot and simmer on low with the lid off. This will help some of the moisture evaporate and thicken your apple butter.

Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and give it a taste! Now is the time to add your desired spices, if you wish. Some suggestions: clove, ginger or lemon juice.

Now, you are ready to can.

Canning and Preserving

To properly can at home, you’ll need mason jars, bands and new lids. While your jars and bands can be sterilized and reused, lids cannot, as the rubber only properly seals once. You’ll also need a large pot and it is helpful, but not necessary, to have a canning rack, wide-mouth canning funnel, magnetic lid lifter and jar tongs. Keeping all of these tools and your canning area sterile is crucial—any bacteria in your cans will spoil your product!

  1. Wash the jars, lids, and bands in hot, soapy water.
  2. Fill your pot with water and bring to a steady boil. All of your jars should fit comfortably inside your pot and be covered by at least an inch of water. Using your canning rack, lower your jars and lids into the water and keep them in the boiling water until your apple butter is ready.
  3. Once your apple butter is ready, remove the cans from the water and line them up on a clean towel. Use a funnel or ladle to carefully fill each jar with apple butter, leaving about a half-inch of space. Before placing the lids, ensure the lip of your jars are clean.
  4. Place your lids and screw the bands on—do not over-tighten.
  5. Once all your jars are sealed, return the filled jars into the boiling water and lower until they are submerged.
  6. Bring the water to a boil and after an 8-10 minute bath, turn off the heat and let the jars stand in the water for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove the jars from the water and set on a towel to cool.

Do not disturb your product while your jars are cooling—this is crucial to the sealing process. You will hear a “pop!” as each jar seals. This can take up to 24 hours and your success will be measured by testing whether or not your lid buttons pop back up when you press down on the top. Unsealed jars need to be refrigerated and used first or kept in the freezer and re-thawed for use. Store in a cool, dry place and remember to label your jars with a date. If sealed properly, many preservatives can keep for up to five years.

The best part about canning is that your product is sterile, so in a time where direct contact is forbidden, fresh preserves are the perfect salutation to drop at your neighbor’s, friend’s or family’s doorstep to stay connected.

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