When I was a kid, my grandma’s brother and his wife lived in a sleepy little mountain town full of luscious fruit orchards. Aunt Rachel canned pears and apricots, baked cherry pies and peach cobblers, and preserved smooth, sweet apple butter every year. The apple butter used to melt in my mouth on biscuits or pancakes, and it was heavenly spread on a hot slice of ham with savory potatoes and cornbread. But putting up apple butter demanded hours and hours in front of a hot stove, so the treat had been pretty much relegated to a place among my wistful childhood memories. Who had time to cook like that anymore, especially for a humble condiment?
Then, by coincidence, my stepdaughter and another Facebook friend happened to both mention during the past few weeks that they had made apple butter in their slow cookers! I was intrigued. I told myself I’d have to check that idea out sometime … and didn’t think anything more about it.
It’s funny how fate likes to give us nudges and, if we ignore those, we get swift kicks in the rear we can’t miss. My dear friend and fellow author Elena arrived at our weekly writing group last Tuesday with a heavy plastic bag of apples fresh from the tree in her back yard. I had all the crisp, aromatic fruit I wanted, and no more excuses to put off looking up the directions for making one of my favorite autumn delights in the crockpot.
I found a few different recipes and combined the best of their wisdom to suit my needs and the ingredients I had on hand. You can use any kind of apples you like, or a combination of types. But softer, sweeter apples work better than firmer, tart ones like Granny Smiths. Paring the apples isn’t necessary, since the peels will cook down in the crockpot and disappear. Besides, most of the nutrients are in the skin of an apple. It’s a good thing, since I probably wouldn’t have bothered with the recipe at all if I had to peel the apples. Ugh!
You can experiment with different spices. The recipes I looked at called for ground cloves, but I left them out. I had a horrendous toothache nine or ten years ago and couldn’t get a dental appointment for the better part of a week. I had a life hack to keep the pain at bay, though. When I was five years old, I lost my first tooth—one that wasn’t even loose yet—to an unfortunate collision with a parked car while riding a tricycle at top speed. My grandma on my dad’s side, who was Spanish and knew a lot of folk remedies from her own grandmother, had made a paste of ground cloves and water and smeared it on the gums where my tooth had been. It made the pain manageable, but it had tasted awful and ruined cloves for me. I didn’t have ginger, but I might try adding that next time. One of the recipes called for a smidge of lemon juice, which I also didn’t have on hand. That may be worth keeping in mind for the future.
Slow Cooker Apple Butter
6 pounds apples, cored and coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup spiced apple cider
1. Place Apples in slow cooker.
2. Sprinkle dry ingredients over apples. Pour cider over apples and stir to combine everything well.
3. Cook on high for an hour or two. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking for about ten hours.
4. Puree with an immersion blender, also called a stick blender, for a smooth consistency. You can also let the mixture cool and puree in an upright blender or a food processor.
5. Cook another two hours. Apple butter will be slightly runny, with the consistency of baby food. If it’s too watery, continue cooking for an hour or two in the crockpot on low with the lid off. The apple butter will also thicken as it cools.
6. Store in the fridge, airtight, for up to two weeks. You may also can the apple butter in pint jars in a hot water bath, but I preferred to pack it in Ziploc freezer bags, which I labeled, dated, and froze. They’ll make great Christmas gifts–if they last that long!
Jo Elizabeth Pinto was among the first blind students to integrate the public schools in the 1970’s. In 1992, she received a degree in Human Services from the University of Northern Colorado. While teaching students how to use adaptive technology, she earned a second degree in 2004 from the Metropolitan State College of Denver in Nonprofit Management. These days, she freelances as an editor and a braille proofreader.
As an author, Pinto entertains her readers while giving them food for thought. In her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, she draws on personal experience to illustrate that hope is always an action away.
Pinto lives in Colorado with her husband, her teenage daughter, her brindle black Labrador guide dog Spreckles, and an aging family cat called Sam-I-Am. To find out more about her, including her award-winning novel and her two books of memoirs, available in audio, Kindle, and paperback formats, please visit her author Website at https://www.brightsideauthor.com.