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Slow-Cooked Apple Butter
(recipe, Romney Steele)
This recipe makes about four half-pint jars.
- 3 lb. heirloom apples, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
- 1¼ cups apple cider
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 (½-inch) strips lemon peel, plus the juice of 1 lemon
- 2½ to 3 cups sugar (or use a little honey in the mix)
- Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
- Pinch ground cinnamon
- Place the apples in a large, heavy-bottomed pot with the apple cider, cinnamon stick, and lemon peel. Cook over medium heat, occasionally stirring, until the apples are soft and pulpy and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 45 minutes. If the cider evaporates before the apples are cooked through, add a little water.
- Push the apples through a sieve or food mill for a smooth butter, or simply mash with the back of a wooden spoon for a chunkier texture. Discard the lemon peel and cinnamon stick. Return the pulp to the same pot. Add the lemon juice, sugar (more or less depending on the tartness of the apples), and ground spices, and slowly bring to a simmer until the sugar is dissolved.
- Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Take care to use a long wooden spoon and perhaps gloves, as any splatters do burn. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking and stirring until the butter is thick and syrupy and a golden straw-like color, about 45 minutes. If you like it more caramelized, as I do, continue cooking for another 15 minutes or so.
- Watch it closely at this point, as the bottom of the pot can easily scorch and ruin your hard work. If this does happen, turn off the heat immediately and quickly pour the butter into a new pot, leaving the scorched areas in the former pot. Ladle the apple butter into hot, sterilized jars, cover with lids, turn over and let stand overnight.