Apples are a delicious and versatile fruit, and whether you grow them inside a polytunnel or elsewhere in your garden, can be a great addition to almost any growing area, large or small. But a mature apple tree can provide such an abundance of fruit that it can be difficult to know what to do with it all. Making apple butter is one, wonderful way to use up a glut and to preserve apples for use later in the year.
Selecting and Preparing Apples For Apple Butter
Almost any apple varieties can be used to make apple butter. Generally, cooking varieties rather than dessert apples are used, as these tend to break down more fully in the cooking process to create a smooth buttery consistency for the condiment. But should you wish to make a healthier apple butter then you could consider using sweeter apples and deducing or even forgoing sugar in the recipe.
The healthiest and simplest apple butters simply slow cook apples (sometimes with a little cinnamon or other spices) to bring out the natural sugars and do not require any additional sweetener. Such apple butters will not generally keep for more than a week or two in the fridge, but can be a great healthy snack idea for you or your family.
How to make apple butter
You can make apple butter on the stove top in a slow cooker or a large ceramic pan, or in your oven in a casserole type pan. The apples are first cored and stewed with skin on, then blended. If sugar is to be added, and spice, then these are then added to the pureed stewed apples. The mix is then slow cooked until the sugars caramelise and the mix turns a deep brown.
Putting Apple Butter in Jars and Storing Your Apple Butter
The resulting smooth and butter-like heavily reduced apple sauce can then be placed into jars (these can be sterilised by placing them in the oven at a low temperature for around 20 minutes). If you have used sugar in the apple butter then these jars can be stored somewhere cool and will keep for months for use over the winter. If you have not used sugar then you can keep the butter in the fridge for a week or two, or freeze batches for later. You can also prolong the life of non-sugared apple products by pasteurising them in a hot water bath.
Apple butter is delicious spread on bread for breakfast, with pancakes or in a range of puddings and cakes. It is sure to be a firm favourite with the whole family.
Have you made this from your home-grown apples? Share your own tips or your own favourite apple butter recipes in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.