A few weeks ago, Dear Wife, B.T., Shasta and I took part in an annual Watkins-family tradition. We hopped in our car and drove about two hours outside of town into the foothills of the Appalachians, to apple country. Dear Wife and I have been apple picking every year together since before we were married, and we enjoy it a lot. About a week after we went apple picking, I started work on another Watkins-family tradition. Using an old “family recipe” passed down to me by me cobbling together different pieces from other recipes found on the internet and then adding in my own concoction of spices, I spent a good chunk of the following Saturday, and most of Saturday Night, making applebutter.
Applebutter (or two words, “Apple Butter“, if you prefer, but I like it as one word), for those of you who’ve never had the pleasure, is a bit like an extra-thick, sweet, dark, spicy applesauce. It can be used as a spread in the same way as jam or jelly or preserves. When I was growing up, I always preferred applebutter over jam or jelly to go on my peanut-butter sandwiches. Or to go on fresh, hot toast. Or just about anything really. Applebutter is just great stuff. (I highly recommend you try some.)
But I started to notice, a few years ago, that it was getting harder and harder to find applebutter on grocery store shelves. And often, when you could find it, it wasn’t very good quality applebutter. I had learned somewhere along the way that I sometimes like to cook – especially when I’m cooking for a non-singular number of eaters (which is to say, for more than just myself; it’s too boring to cook for just myself)… so I decided to start making my own applebutter!
I didn’t know much about it, at the time, so I looked up some recipes and got some good ideas. This gave me the place to start. I needed a recipe that I could safely prepare and store in jars for the coming wintry months, and I needed to know a little about “home canning”. But there was something missing from those recipes. So I added a little additional flavor to my “secret” recipe.
But deciding to make applebutter is not for the faint-hearted. It can take hours to do the necessary slow cooking that reduces and caramelizes what starts, essentially, as applesauce into that thick, dark, rich goodness. Frankly, it’s just not something you’re bound to do unless you were already an applebutter addict, like me.
This is the third year I’ve made applebutter, now. I missed last year because I was too busy with school, but Dear Wife and I missed the applebutter so much we decided I’d just have to find the time to make it this year. And I made an extra big batch, to make sure it would last through the year. It took all day, about 30 apples, 18 jars of various sizes, and Dear Wife’s new Canning pot and tools, but I’ve tasted it, and the results were worth it! Here’s a glamour shot of the finished product, with a few of the apples we picked (whose cousins ended up in the pot).