Grit Blogs > Rural Legend

Apple Butter Time

Brent and LeAnna Alderman StersteIf I had to choose one taste to remind me of childhood, it would be homemade biscuits (my maternal grandmother’s recipe) spread with homemade apple butter made by my paternal  grandmother. I inherited my grandma’s apple butter kettle, which is a large traditional copper kettle blackened with use, which stands on four cast-iron legs to be used over an outdoor fire. It looks a lot like this one they use at my parents’ church. That’s my dad stirring the apple butter.

Dad stirring the apple butter kettle at their church in West Virginia.

I dream of getting my grandma’s kettle cleaned up someday and using it again, but for now we are forced to make our apple butter indoors. This year we bought a bushel of low-spray Ginger Gold apples from our friend’s farm.  A whole lot of them were eaten straight off, but we did manage to save some for canning.

We used an old-fashioned peeler to prep the apples, which worked great. Ella in particular loved cranking the handle.  (The worms loved the peelings.)

Our new, old-fashioned hand-crank apple-peeler.

After we peeled all the apples, we gave them a coarse chop so they’d cook down faster.   We finally found a way to keep our preschooler busy while we were work: We gave her a butter knife and some apple slices and set her to work.  She took her work very seriously and ultimately declared, “I love helping you cook, Daddy!”

Ella was a great helper with apple chopping.

All those chopped up apples went into a stock pot along with a bit of fresh apple cider to start them steaming.

The apples cooked down with just a bit of cider to get them steaming.

When they were very soft, after an hour or so, Brent mashed them up with a potato masher, all the while regretting having given away his immersion blender years ago.  Once we had a fairly smooth apple sauce, we added lots of cinnamon and some sugar.   This lovely, fall-ish concotion simmered for another hour or so until it had cooked down by about a third and, most importantly, it looked and tasted like apple butter. We packed the hot apple butter into sterilized jam jars. While lots of old-timers will just let the jars seal themselves, we processed ours for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.  Here’s our finished product all set for winter eating and for giving as Christmas gifts.

The finished jars of apple butter.

After we made this, Brent found an amazing sounding recipe for Pear Caramel Butter, and we decided to try that too.  We made some changes to the recipe that we’re quite pleased with.  We left out the lemon juice, cut the nutmeg down to just a pinch or so, and added a couple teaspoons of vanilla extract.  It made a fantastic spread and is definitely worth your trying!  We enjoy it spread on all kinds of things – pancakes, biscuits, and of course, a spoon.

How’s your fall canning going?