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Making Apple Sauce and Apple Butter

AppleMy mother used to make the best-ever tasting apple butter.  It seems we always had a jar in refrigerator.  After my mother died, my sister continued the tradition, and always gives out jars of apple butter each fall to the rest of the family.  Well, after years and years, I've decided to start making my own apple butter from mom's recipe.  It's not really that difficult, and actually, it's kind of fun.

The recipe is really simple, and calls for either unsweetened fresh apple pulp, or store-bought unsweetened apple sauce.  I thought it would be neat if we bought some local home-grown apples, cooked and pressed them to start with fresh apple pulp.

To start, you need some apples.  We traveled to Nebraska City and purchased an 8lb bag (1/5 of a bushel) of Jonathon apples during their local Apple Jack Festival.  You can purchase more if you'd like, but this was enough to start with.  This made 2 1/4 quarts of apple sauce when finished and should be enough for two batches of apple butter.  I probably could have gotten a little more apple sauce though if I had ground the pulp a little more.  Wash the apples and slice.  It's OK to leave the peel on.  We have one of those apple slicer gizmos (below, at the right side of the picture) that makes quick work of removing the core.

Chopping Apples

Next, you'll need to put the apples in a large pot, with a couple inches of water.  Cook the apples until they are soft and mushy.  I don't recall how long I cooked mine, but it may have been about 1/2 hour, I'm not sure.  I kept stirring the pot to keep the apples mixed up, and to ensure that all of the apples had a chance to cook in the simmering water.  I also covered the pot when not stirring, which helped to steam the apples on top.

A pot of apples

After the apples were soft, I ran them through a food mill.  While it was really hard work, it pressed the apples into apple pulp, or otherwise known as apple sauce.  You can see where I let the juice drain from the cooked apples (into the pot on the right), then would scoop a cup or two of apples into the food mill to grind, then discard the peels and remaining pulp in another bowl to the left.  Occasionally, I would scoop out the freshly ground apple sauce into another bowl so it wouldn't get so messy.

Using the food mill to make apple sauce

Here, you can see the finished apple sauce in a pot on low heat.  It really, truly looks like apple sauce that you'd buy from a store.  I did add a little bit of cinnamon, but since I didn't have all of the ingredients to make apple butter, I decided to can this into quart jars and make apple butter later. 

Apple Sauce

After dipping the quart jars and lids into a canning bath for 10 minutes, I ladled the apple sauce into the quart jars, attached the lids and rings, and then canned the jars for 20 minutes in a boiling canning bath.  Here, you can see the finished product.  Behind the 2 quarts of apple sauce are 9 pints of homemade salsa I also canned over the previous two days.

Apple Sauce

To make the apple butter, I'll take 4 cups of apple sauce (1 quart), add a box of Sure Jell, and some all spice and cloves.  Recall, I added the cinnamon before I canned the applesauce.  I'll bring that to a roiling boil for a couple of minutes, then add 5 cups of sugar, and boil again for about 3 minutes.  Then, I'll ladle the apple butter into half pint jars and can.  This recipe should make about 8 jars of butter.  Yum!

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