Really, I promise this is the last apple butter recipe. At least for this year. (It’s possible, just possible, that 110 lbs of apples was a wee bit insane ludicrous ambitious.)
But this is an apple butter recipe I can get behind. It’s really a cranberry butter recipe; very tangy cranberry flavor with the apples lending their pectin and texture and a hint of sweetness. Again I dispensed with the cinnamon (lest I have to buy stock in Penzey’s), but the orange, cloves and allspice lend just the right counterpoint to the zing! of the cranberries. Perfect for your Thanksgiving table.
Cranberry Apple Butter
- food mill, chinois, or blender
- canning supplies
- 5 lbs apples (I used Stayman-Winesap organically-grown apples from Fishkill Farms)
- 2 – 4 cups organic cranberries (fresh or frozen)
- 1 cup apple juice or cider
- 3/4 cup organic cranberry juice concentrate (or 4 cups unsweetened cranberry juice)
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
- 1 cup local honey
- 3 tbsp dried organic cranberry powder (optional)
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- zest of one orange
- pinch of sea salt
- Add the apple juice, cranberry juice concentrate, cider vinegar and optional lemon juice to a large stockpot. Quarter the apples, but do not peel or core them; the peels and cores contain a lot of the natural pectin and will help to firm up the consistency of the butter. Add the apples to the stockpot as you chop, tossing occasionally to prevent browning. Add the cranberries (2 cups if you are using cranberry powder, 4 cups if you are not) and toss.
- Bring the pot, covered, to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the apples are soft, mushy and just beginning to disintegrate, and the cranberries have popped and turned the apples a brilliant cranberry color, about 45 – 60 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly, then, working in batches, push the cooked fruit through a food mill (medium grate) or chinois.
- At this point, you can choose to reduce the cranapple pulp prior to adding the honey and spices, as described in No Peel ‘Em Apple Butter (return pulp to stockpot and simmer gently for a few hours until reduced by half), or you can skip to the next step.
- Add the honey, spices, salt, orange zest and cranberry powder to the cranapple pulp; I suggest starting with about half of the suggested cranberry powder, and tasting and adjusting as the butter cooks. Mix well, or if you want a really smooth butter, now is a good time to give it a blend with an immersion blender. Now you have a choice: you can either cook the butter over medium heat on the stovetop, stirring constantly (for at least an hour, maybe more), or you can reduce slowly in a 300 degree F oven, stirring once every 15 – 30 minutes, for about 5 hours. [For this particular batch of apple butter, I choose a combination of methods. I reduced the cranapple pulp on the stovetop, at a simmer, for about an hour, then, as I was baking a mole' in the oven anyway, I added the honey & spices to the butter, transferred it to a 9 X 13" roasting pan and reduced it in the oven for about 3 hours. Then I wrapped it up, refrigerated overnight, and finished it off on the stovetop in the morning.]
- By whichever method, cook the cranberry apple butter until the texture looks good to you, remembering that it will thicken somewhat upon cooling. Because this cranapple butter is so tart, I left the texture a little more loose than my usual thick, creamy apple butter, which resulted in higher yield and less time stirring. You can test the texture of your butter by putting a small dollop on a chilled plate; the butter should hold it’s shape on the plate and no liquid should seep off of the dollop.
- About an hour before you will be done cooking, prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Pack hot butter into hot, sterilized jars to 1/4-inch headspace. It’s especially important with this viscous butter that you stir to eliminate any air pockets trapped in the middle of the jar or along the sides. Wipe rim well, affix lid and band, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields about 6 cups.
- Although I always encourage local, sustainable or organic ingredients, I rarely specify “organic” in any ingredient. Cranberries are an exception. Conventional cranberries are treated with a pesticide called malathion, a chemical with which I have personal experience. Although wikipedia suggests malation has “relatively low human toxicity,” when I worked with this chemical in the lab I had to wear a full bioharzard suit, full face respirator, double gloves, work in a hood, etc., and have my blood checked once-weekly for cholinesterase levels. Malathion is not something I ever, ever want to eat.
- Cranberry powder is in this recipe because I had an unfortunate cranberry drying incident last winter which resulted in me grinding dried-to-bird-shot cranberries into powder. I haven’t found too many uses for it, but it was perfect in this recipe, giving the butter a very nice cranberry tang. You can find cranberry powder at whole food stores, in the vitamin aisle, or online.
- Cranberry juice concentrate can be found at organic or whole food markets, in the juice aisle. If you can’t find any, feel free to use unsweetened cranberry juice; it will just take more time to reduce.
- This butter is very tart from the cranberries, jucie and powder; I love it that way, but I don’t think the lemon juice was necessary. When I make this recipe again, I will omit it.
Canned, in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year. Refrigerated, use within 3 months.
Fall through winter.