Shockingly we found ourselves with a free Saturday this weekend--no work, almost no sports (just a short training session) and no family commitments, so we decided to go on a much-needed escape to the country for an apple picking adventure. Every single variety of apple we tasted was amazing--crisp and juicy--nothing like the mealy ones we've been picking up at the store and we even managed to avoid the rain!! It was really a lot of fun and we returned home 20 pounds heavier--thank goodness I'm only referring to the bags of apples and then the real dilemma began--what were we going to do with all those apples?!!! Sure, we could eat some of them but let's face it--you don't go apple picking to just eat apples--you're in it for the pie or crisp or cobbler or whatever apple-y dessert you dream up. So now you've been forewarned--expect to see lots of apple-based goodies here in the coming days. First in line, is this wonderful and easy to make Homemade Apple Butter. Sort of like jam, only thicker and more chunky, and lightly enhanced with the warm flavors of cinnamon and vanilla, it's the perfect seasonal spread!!
In case you've never had apple butter before, you should know that it's somewhat of a misnomer since there's absolutely no butter involved here at all. Basically, making apple butter is like making applesauce--you peel and chop up a lot of apples, and let them cook down long and slow with some apple cider, sugar and spices so that the apples caramelize and the mixture thickens into a sort of jam. It's great as a spread on toast but you could just as easily eat it by the spoonful--not that I would know anything about it--just sayin'!
So if the apple picking bug has caught you too, dig down into that bag of hard earned beauties you picked and whip up a batch of this Cinnamon Vanilla Apple Butter today or for someone you love. A jar of this makes a terrific gift if you're selfless enough to part with it! More apple goodies to come!!
Cinnamon Vanilla Apple Butter
Makes about 3 cups
Prep Time: A little over one hour
- 2 pounds (about 6 medium) Granny Smith (or other firm, tart apples) peeled, cored and cut into a small dice
- 1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice or apple cider
- 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean
1. Into a large pot, place the diced apples, apple juice or cider, lemon juice and cinnamon and bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring often. Lower the heat to medium-low and keep the mixture at a low simmer for about 10 minutes, until the apples are just beginning to get tender.
2. Stir in the sugar. Then cut the vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds into the mixture. Add the pod in as well and let the mixture come back to a simmer over medium heat, then lower the heat a bit, just so that the mixture is at at steady simmer but not really boiling. Stir the mixture often, for another 30 minutes or so, until the apples have broken down and you're left with a nice, chunky puree.
3. Let the mixture cool completely in the pot. Then remove the vanilla bean and discard. Transfer the apple butter to mason jars or airtight containers and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Note: Recipe adapted from Sarabeth's Good Morning Cookbook by Sarabeth Levine.