This year I took fruit picking to the next level – well, for a Northern girl that is. Growing up I longed for sweet Canadian peaches, pears and apples. But, the growing season in my neck of the woods wasn’t conducive to that kind of fare. Funny thing about living in the Bay is that we had more ready access to B.C. fruit than the significantly closer Southern Ontario counterparts.
Growing up I can’t remember much of any apples to speak of – crabapples grow at my mother’s childhood home, and that was as close as we got. We were always throwing together some kind of jelly admits snacking and throwing the cores at each other for fun. Crababbles weren’t quite as inspiring in the kitchen as they seem to be these days.
Now, this year I got organized. Peaches and Apples were finally within my grasp! Not to mention the purple mulberries that I nonchalantly picked off neighbourhood trees throughout the city.
First I was treated to sweet, freestone peaches from a family friend’s Christmas Tree farm that just happened to be adorned with a handful of trees. And now, apples! Let’s take a bite out of life, shall we?
Based off a recommendation from a friend and the orchard’s willingness to sell fresh pressed cider to my guy, we headed to Pieter’s Appleyard. Boasting more than 35 varieties of apples, this orchard is packed with autumnal goodies. As a result, I was running around like a kid in a candy store. Literally, I had to be stopped after I had picked 23 pounds of apples. Pieter’s Appleyard, if you want help collecting grounders or picking apples, I would like to offer my services.
Today is my mother’s 60th birthday, or rather I should say the twins birthday as my Aunt is too turning the big 6-0. I was lucky enough to spend Thanksgiving weekend with her, send her flowers for the big day, and now this smooth, sweet comforting apple butter spread.
I can’t thank her enough for sharing her love of plants and flowers. These hands have taught me how to plant, prune and preserve. To do her justice I took a sweet little flower arranging class with the sweet and sassy Becky of Blush and Bloom and fixed up some apples.
This is for you Mom.
Chai Spiced Apple Butter.
9-10 pounds of fresh apples (it is really important not to use waxed apples here – I used a nice mix of tart and sweet to get a complex apple flavour, I cored my apples but left the skin on to make use of the natural pectin, if you have a food mill I highly recommend you leave the core in, it’s less work)
3 cups of water or fresh pressed apple cider
2 cups of organic fair trade brown sugar
¾ of a lemon, juiced
sea salt, three hefty pinches
Sidenote: there are two definitive ways to approach making apple butter. You can roast the apples in the oven with a bit of sugar and water/cider or you can cook it down on the stovetop. In the end I wanted to cook my apples down to render a smoother, deeper flavour on the stove top. So, I suggest you go with what is easiest for you. If you choose to cook it down entirely using the stovetop, the process essentially is prep apples, cook applesauce, cook down further for apple butter.
Now, go have fun!
Turn oven up to 400 F, then grab a sturdy large pot.
Give your apples a nice scrub under running water.
Cut apples into quarters depending on size of apple. Remove stem and core with a spoon, paring knife or teaspoon like I did.
Sprinkle a big pinch of sea salt, 1/3 cup of brown sugar or raw honey, then pour ¼ cup of water/cider squeeze a third to half a lemon over the apples as well.
Roast in oven for 30-35 minutes, then douse in remaining ¾ cup of water/cider. May extra attention to the corners of the roasting pan, without fail the sugar tends to harden in these spots. Let sit for a few minutes. Scrape bottom of pan to loosen the tasty bits.
At this point you would want to run your lovely apples through a food mill (if you have one) to smooth out the texture and sift out the knobby bits, pouring the sweet lovely purée into your heavy bottom sauce pan.
However, I am still living in the wake of my poor student days and instead choose to run it through a sieve. But, the sieve was nowhere to be found so I used my hands and got down and dirty by peeling off the apple skins once the mixture cooled.
Using an immersion or regular blender, puree the apple butter.
Assemble your Chai Spice Bouquet Garni using an empty paper teabag or : 2-3 Star Anise, 2 teaspoons of black peppercorns, 2-3 teaspoons of cardamom pods, 3-4 thick slices of fresh ginger, skin-on, 3 whole cinnamon sticks. Feel free to add in a vanilla pod here too. Make sure it is covered by the sauce and getting a good steep.
Allow apple butter to thicken over heat on lowest setting with a, stir every 10 minutes or so. I cooked mine down for 2-3 hours, make sure to taste every hour so that you don’t overpower the apple with the chai spice!
Use your gut, in order to figure out how thick and strong you want your apple butter. But keep in mind you want to be able to spread this sweetness onto toast or muffins you are going to want a thicker consistency, something that will cling to the spoon.
I was inspired to roast these lovely apples after spotting this on Food52.
Tip: If you have three rimmed baking sheet and the capacity in you oven I highly encourage you to prep three pans with the above directions at once. I had to run this operation one pan at a time roughly 3 pounds of apples per go. The upside of that was that the apartment was filled with scent of roasted apples for hours.
Tip: If you aren’t planning on canning your apple butter then you can opt to make this sugar free!
For a concise canning guide, please see below.
For more advice please see the following Simple Bites Post from the amazing Marisa from Food in Jars! Many thanks goes to Aimée of Simple Bites for her encouragement via Instagram and fantastic instructional blog posts on small batch canning.
Hot Water Bath Canning Method
Bring your tallest pot of water to a boil.
Meanwhile prep 250 or 500 ml jars and lids by washing in hot soapy water. Then bring a saucepan of water to a boil, let jars sit for ten minutes and then place on a clean kitchen towel or paper towel until being used.
Allow lids to sit at a low rolling boil until used. The lids are by far the most important part here as they are sealing out contaminants.
Fill apple butter in jars leaving ½ inch for expansion. Place on lids and leave rings slightly loose. Immerse into a rolling boil for 15 minutes.
If you choose to use 250 ml jars then leave in for 10. Honestly, the apple butter wont overcook so if you are new to canning, leave them in for 15 and be stress free!
Remove with jar tongs and let rest in a cool, dry place for 24 hours. Check seal after this time. For those that did not seal properly, put in fridge and use within a couple of weeks.
Send to friends, family and remember to hide some away for yourself.
Apple butter can be enjoyed over oats, chai pudding, buckwheat groats, smeared on baked goods, spooned into smoothies. I am going to try it with some hot water or rooibos chai tea.
Happy Autumn Everyone!