I love apple butter. It’s tasty, of course, but it’s not so much that I love to eat it, as I love to cook with it: I toss it into various muffins & quickbreads, Tai’s granola, the occasional meat glaze or braising sauce. In addition to its usefulness in the kitchen, butter is the easiest way to preserve a whole bunch of apples without a lot of effort: no peeling, no coring, no prep of added ingredients. It’s perfect for wild apples as well, little, misshapen, wrinkly and bumpy things that they are: just cut ‘em in half, toss ‘em in water, and cook. Push through a food mill, add little sugar, or maybe some honey, a few spices. Or maybe, just maybe, some booze.
If there is anything I love in the kitchen more than apple butter, it’s booze (well, and popcorn. chocolate. pumpkins. bacon. I’ll stop now.). And not just because it’s so lovely to drink. (No, seriously. Stop laughing.) Booze is a workhorse in the kitchen: deglaze a pan, braise a chicken, add zing to risotto, depth to tomato sauce, and an extra dimension to any number of fruit preserves. Alcohol also acts as a preservative, and as such lends itself to the very simpest preserving: 1) booze in jar, 2) add fruit, 3) wait, 4) instant cocktail!
In this recipe, not only does the bourbon add a depth of flavor, accented by the brown sugar and molasses, but it adds some needed liquid: when you drain away all of the juice, you need a small amount of liquid to add back to the pulp so that it will blend and cook down smoothly. Apple juice or cider works well of course, but: why not use booze? Why not, indeed.
And if there is anything I love more than apple butter and booze it is free apples! Thanks go to Julia of What Julia Ate for sending down some apples from her ‘hood, and to Kate of Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking for apple delivery services! Thanks so much, girlz: this apple butter is even more special because of you.
- about 5 lbs apples (I used a Stayman-Macintosh varietal, gifted to me by Miss Julia)
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- filtered water
- 1 cup dark brown sugar (I used Muscovado), lightly packed (7 oz)
- 1/2 cup bourbon
- 2 tbsp molasses
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- Wash & stem apples. Quarter and add to a large, wide stockpot (peels, cores & all) with 1 cup of cider vinegar. Add filtered water to just cover apples. Bring to a boil over high heat; cover pot, reduce heat to low and simmer until apples are soft and just beginning to break down, about 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve, lined with dampened cheesecloth, to collect juice. Reserve juice for this. Or this. Or maybe this. Push cooked apples through a food mill, or a fine sieve, to remove seeds & skins. At this point, you can store the apple pulp overnight and continue with the recipe the next day, if you like.
- Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Add bourbon, sugar, molasses and spices to apple pulp. Blend with an immersion blender, or in a food processor, until very smooth, then transfer to a large, wide preserving pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, and covered with a splatter screen, until butter thickens and will mound on a spoon (anywhere from 20 – 60 minutes depending on your level of heat, stirring, width of pan, etc.). Fill hot jars to 1/4-inch headspace, carefully remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, wipe rims, affix lids, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
This recipe yielded 9 cups of butter, which was much higher than I expected: I would typically get 5 – 6 cups from 5 lbs of apples.
- Essentially all of the alcohol in the bourbon is cooked off here; the bourbon flavor in the final butter is there, but there is no bite of ethanol. If you’d like a stronger bourbon flavor, I’d suggest cooking the butter down a bit past the thickness that you want, then stir in another 1/4 cup of bourbon just before canning.
- Because you’ve drained off the apple juice, this butter cooks faster than a typical recipe: if you plan to cook all day in a Crock-Pot while you are at work, you may want to add back a cup or two of apple juice, just in case.
Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.
Fall through winter.