Apple picking is, to me, the quintessential New England day trip. I've lived here for a few years, but I never had the chance to go. And, to be perfectly honest, apples are my least favorite fruit.
There. I said it.
I don't like crunchy or crispy foods, and as a child I hated the texture of the skin. I also find most apples flavor to be distinctly boring. So what changed my mind about apples? Apple butter.
The thing with making your own apple butter is that you have to can it. At first I was completely intimidated by the idea, so I looked for ways to do it without canning, but the alternative is just having a lot of apple butter and having to use it in a few days, or risk poisoning yourself and your loved ones.
What really turned me on to the idea is that I could make great gifts. (Last year I made peppermint patties, coconut drops, and cherry bonbons, but they are time consuming and turned me off to powdered sugar for 6 months. I might never forgive them.)
Canning is not difficult if you have the right tools (holler, Amazon!), but you need to follow recipes to the T, and they have to be tested for safety purposes. Also you get points for domesticity.
I'm using a recipe adapted from www.preservefood.com; it's essentially the same but I spice it up more. I've used between 1 and 2 cups of sugar in the recipe, and I like it both ways, but if you don't care for the tartness of apples, use 2 cups. I've also left the cores in the first part of the cooking process. Along with the skin, that's where most of an apples flavor is. I also recommend using a combination of different apples. Pie apples like Granny Smiths and Cortlands will give you a traditional tart apple flavor, apples like MacIntosh, Empire, and Winesaps have a wine-like, or vinous, flavor. Use apples that you like, and you can't go wrong, though very sweet apples like Red Delicious won't give you much of an apple flavor, due to their high sugar and water content.
Apple Butter (Recipe adapted from Preserve Food)
Makes about 4 pints
15 medium sized apples (I like a combination of Cortlands and Empires)
4 cups apple cider
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
5 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1. Wash and quarter the apples, removing the stems. Place them in a Dutch oven or a heavy bottomed, large pot. Add the apple cider and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, turning the apples occasionally to cook evenly and to prevent sticking.
2. Press the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove skins and seeds. Return about 10 cups to the Dutch oven or pot.
3. Add the sugar and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until mixture has thickened and turned brown.
4. Spoon the apple butter into hot, sterilized jars, leaving a 1/4 inch head-space. Wipe rims, place the lids on, and screw the bands tightly.
5. Place in a boiling water canner and process for 5-10 minutes (5 for half-pint, 10 for full pint). Carefully remove the jars and allow them to cool on a towel.