Life always seems to get a little crazy around this time of year. We get caught up in school events, hockey, work, finishing up the summer garden and prepping for winter, but no matter how busy we get, I always set aside time to make apple butter. Whether we use purchased apples or pick them ourselves, I look forward to doing this work every year. I use one of those hand slicers that cores the apple and makes eight wedges, and I toss the apples into the slow cooker as I slice. The boys are usually nearby, sneaking apple wedges whenever they can or asking if they can help sprinkle on the sugar and cinnamon.
As the apples cook down and the aroma fills the house, it reminds me of autumns gone by and the smell of my mother’s fresh baked apple pie, the taste of my grandmother’s apple butter that they made in a large copper kettle over an open fire, the work that they put into the food that we all ate. Every time I make apple butter, I feel their presence, a connection to the past that streams through to the present and infuses my mind with good memories. In some small way, making apple butter pays homage to all the women in my family, a recognition of how hard they worked to take care of all of us.
I can call my mother and tell her about how we made apple butter again, and oh how I wish I could call my grandmother and tell her, too. She could talk at great length about how she prepared food, and I wish I could have one of those conversations with her. Because that is how I remember her; in the kitchen, making food for everyone.
After trying many different kinds of apples, I’ve settled on Galas for making apple butter. They are slightly sweet on their own, and so require less sugar, plus they cook down very nicely. I start a pot of these in the evening and finish it up the next afternoon.
SLOW COOKER APPLE BUTTER
Adapted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger.
Makes 5 to 8 cups.
6-quart slow cooker
apple wedge slicer
immersion blender (or a jar blender)
16 medium to large Gala apples, unpeeled, cored, and cut into wedges (Might be slightly more or less, just enough to fill your slow cooker.)
2 cups (220 g) light brown sugar or raw sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 cup (240 ml) apple cider
pinch of salt
1. Add enough apple slices to cover the bottom of the slow cooker. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of brown sugar and some of the cinnamon over the slices. Repeat until you’ve used all of the apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Add a pinch of salt and pour the apple cider over the apples. Toss the apples with a wooden spoon.
2. Cover and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours, or overnight. Remove the lid, mash the apples down with a potato masher, and stir to mix. Leave the lid off and continue cooking on low, mashing and stirring occasionally, until the mixture has reduced to about 1/3 and is thick. Turn off the slow cooker and allow the mixture to come to room temperature.
3. Use an immersion blender (or jar blender) to puree the cooled mixture until it’s very smooth. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 months or in the freezer for up to 3 months. You may also process jars using the boiling water method.
Use 1 cup maple syrup and 1 cup brown sugar to sweeten the apples.
Try this spice mix: 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice.
If using a 4-quart slow cooker, adjust the number of apples (about 8 medium to large apples), and reduce the sugar to 1-1/2 cups.