I completely missed the official peak of apple season. But, living in the lovely Pacific Northwest means local apples are plentiful even into December. There are a million varieties and it’s hard to keep up with them!!
Rain and cold temperatures meant an opportunity to cook up a big batch of Vanilla-Spiked Apple Butter. Most of the jars will disappear into the hands of others as gifts, but a few will make residence in my pantry. If you are looking for a lightly sweetened, spiced, and vanilla-spiked apple butter, you are in luck! This recipe calls for a water-bath canner, but you can always refrigerate/freeze your jars if you don’t have a canner. Be prepared to spend some time with this recipe, but know that your commitment is worth every second. Promise.
Vanilla-Spiked Apple Butter
Makes about 9 half-pint jars
12 -14 apples (I used a combination of Granny Smith and Fuji apples, use your favorites)
2 cups apple cider or apple juice
Juice from 1 lemon
1 1/2 – 2 cups dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1. Start by putting a large pot on your stovetop. You will be filling it with apples shortly. If you are using a water-bath canner, wash your jars in hot soapy water and rinse well. Put the jars on a baking sheet and place it in your oven at 150 degrees F (this keeps them warm and sterilized). Wash jar lids and bands as well. Place them in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water just to a simmer then turn off the heat, cover, and set aside until ready to use.
2. Next, wash all of your apples very well. You can peel them if you want to (I peeled half of mine). Core the apples and slice them into wedges. Transfer all of the apples to your big pot.
3. Add the apple cider and lemon juice to the pot. Cover the pot. Turn the heat on medium-high and bring the liquid to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat slightly, keep covered, and stir every so often until apples are soft.
4. Transfer the contents of the pot (liquid included) to a blender. You will need to do this in batches. BE CAREFUL – THE MIXTURE WILL BE HOT!! Puree until very, very smooth. A high speed blender works best, but if you have a regular blender, just be patient. Transfer the pureed mixture back to the pot and add all remaining ingredients, except the vanilla extract. Stir to distribute. When adding the sugar, start with at least 1 1/2 cups, and then taste to see if you want the apple butter to be sweeter.
5. Bring the mixture to a low boil and cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. The mixture will thicken and darken. Make sure to stir frequently and lower the heat if it splatters too much.
6. While the apple mixture is cooking, get your water-bath canner ready. Fill it with water and set it to a boil. This can take a long time if you have a crappy electric stove like me. Try to time this so the water will be boiling when your apple mixture has finished cooking. Once the apple mixture has finished cooking, stir in the vanilla.
7. Prepare your workspace. You will need: a magnetic wand for the jar bands and lids, jar tongs, a jar funnel, a ladle, a few potholders, a clean towel, and a cooling rack. You can actually purchase nifty little canning sets like this one, so you have everything you need (aside from the canner itself)!
8. Now it’s time to fill your jars!!! Remove your jars from the oven and place the baking sheet on a thick towel. Place the pot with the apple butter on a potholder next to where you will fill the jars. Now, put the jar funnel over a jar and ladle in some apple butter! Leave a 1/2″ headspace in the jar. Wipe the rim with a clean, damp dishtowel to remove any apple butter residue. Using your snazzy magnetic wand, put a lid and a band on each jar after you fill it. Screw until snug, but not too tight! Repeat with remaining jars and apple butter.
9. Once you have filled all of your jars, place them on the rack inside your canner using the jar tongs (please take care when doing this step!). This might require two batches. My canner holds seven jars at a time. Put the lid on your canner and bring the water back to a boil. Once at a rapid boil, set your timer for 10 minutes. When 10 minutes have passed, use your jar tongs to remove the jars from your canner. Set them on a cooling rack and repeat with any remaining unprocessed jars.
10. Now… you wait for the PING! The ping is the sound that occurs when the vacuum seal on the jar seals. It is the best sound in the world to a canner!! Pop! When this happens, you know your jar sealed properly. It can take time, so be patient. Wait 24 hours and then tap the top of each jar lightly. You will know it sealed if the center doesn’t bounce back. Put any unsealed jars in the fridge or freezer. Properly sealed jars will keep in your pantry for about a year. They might last longer, but my batches disappear too quickly!
December Photo Project 2012: Day #11
***Please note that manufacturer instructions for different brands of jars, canners, and equipment can vary. Please read through all your own instructions to ensure proper canning. The method I use is pretty standard, but just to be sure! If you are new to water-bath canning, do some research first. This website is helpful.***
***Also, if you don’t have a canner, you can cook the mixture and transfer it to jars as instructed. When you have filled all the jars, let them cool, and then store them in the fridge or freezer.***