Amazingly Easy Apple Butter

apple, butter, cinnamon, fall, slow cooker,

It’s that time of year again when there’s a crispness in the air and the leaves are beginning to change.  One of the great things about this time of year is that one of my favourites come on sale: apples.  You can get so many different varieties now and there are always new ones to try.

We had the family visit a short while ago and we are lucky enough to have an orchard just a short drive away.  This orchard offers to the public the chance to pick your own apples.  They have signs showing which varieties are ripe and ready to be picked.  We picked about ten pounds of apples, and even had time to snack while we were picking.

If you know me, and you should if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you will realize that if there’s a better, easier, or faster way of doing something I will find a way to utilize it.  That’s what I like about making apple butter.  It seems like you slaved over a hot stove for hours, stirring and reducing, but the workhorse for this recipe is your tried and true slow cooker.

This appliance gets lots of use from me, especially during the colder months.  I love the “set it and forget it” way you can make something and hours later, you have a delicious meal or, in this case, condiment.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing apple butter, then you have to make this recipe.  You get the intense flavour of apples with a slight sweetness from the caramelization of the apples.  There’s no actual butter added to the recipe, it’s just creamy and spreads like its dairy counterpart.

While I said that there isn’t a lot of work, here is where you have to do the lion’s share: prepping the apples.  You’re going to need enough apples to fill a five quart slow cooker.  I reckon about 4-5 pounds will do it.  You want to have the cooker filled to the brim.  It will cook down considerably, so don’t worry.  So, let’s get to it.

Once the apples are peeled, cut them into about one inch pieces.  Don’t worry about them getting brown while you’re cutting the rest.  They are all going to be that colour eventually.

These will save you so much time!

Pro tip: Invest in some slow cooker liners.  These amazing plastic liners save you the trouble of cleaning all the burnt-on sides of your crock pot.  I love them.  I picked mine up at Bed, Bath and Beyond, but I believe any kitchen specialty store would have them.  They are also available through their website.

If you don’t have the liner, then liberally spray the inside of the crock pot with cooking spray to cut down on the cleaning later.

Place all your cut apples into your lined slow cooker and add a couple of sticks of cinnamon.  I think the cinnamon adds another depth of flavour to the butter and complements the apples wonderfully.  Turn your cooker on the longest setting it can go.  Mine cooks for ten hours before it shuts off so that’s what I used.

apples, fall, butter, cinnamon, autumn

Now walk away.  I like to do this in the evening, so the slow cooker does all its work overnight.  That way I wake up to a house filled with the amazing scent of cinnamon and apples cooking.  It’s like waking to fresh apple pie.  When the cooking is done you’ll notice that the apples should have reduced by about half.  We’re not done yet.  Give the apples a quick stir and reset your cooker to cook for another ten hours.  This time you want to moisture to escape.  I just turn the lid a bit so there’s a little crack to let the steam out.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, then use a wooden spoon to keep the lid open.  When you go back to check on it the second time it should look like this:

apple, cinnamon, butter, fall, slow cooker

The mixture should have reduced to about 1/4 of what you started with.  See all that lovely caramelization?  That’s flavour and it will taste amazing.

Here’s one step which you may skip.  I like my butter to have a more rustic look so I don’t do this.  If you want your butter to look more smooth and have that creamy texture, then you can place the mixture in your food processor and blend until smooth.  You can also use a hand held mixing wand to smooth out the butter.  If you like the more rustic, homemade look, then move on!

Now, you can put the apple butter in plastic containers and keep them in your fridge.  They will keep for at least a week or longer.  If you want things to last a little longer, then I suggest canning.  This batch made just over four 250ml jars with a little left over for my morning toast.  Throw your apple butter in the jars, heat seal in boiling water, and you’re set.

There you have it.  Amazingly easy apple butter.  Your friends will think you’ve slaved for hours, but you and I know better.  And it’s great on so many things.  Spread it on your cinnamon raisin bagel.  Mix it into your oatmeal.  Use it as a topping for pork or chicken.  Even put a dollop on top of caramel ice cream for your own caramel apple flavoured ice cream. The possibilities are endless.

See, now I have to go and make another batch.

The apple butter at the top of the post is spread on the apple oat loaf I made earlier.  You can find that recipe here.

Apple Oat Loaf

apple, oat. loaf, savoury, fall, autumn, cinnamon, farm, picking, breadMy family came up to visit this week and we wanted to show them around the area, so we did a little sight-seeing.  Just a little drive up the road is Homestead Orchards.  They used to be a dairy farm but the owners switched over to apples a few years back and now the son runs the farm.  They offer pick-your-own apples, as well as strawberries and fresh corn.  The strawberries help them out during the beginning of the summer when the apples aren’t quite ready, helps them in the pocketbook too.   They even bake apple goods on-site, so you can pick up a fresh apple pie or apple blondie hot from the oven, if you choose.

When we arrived there were three types of apples ripe for picking.  Apples ripen earlier or later during the season depending on the type.  When we went there were galas, gingergold, and jonamac apples ready to be picked.  They recommend you bring your own bags so it’s easier on the environment too.

When you arrive you can see rows of apple trees laden with ripening fruit.  The ones which are ready are clearly marked and you’re welcome to taste while you pick.  Jonamac is a combination of a Jonathon and a MacIntosh apple and is a perfect baking apple and great for applesauce and apple butter.  We spent about half an hour going through the trees and finding the ones we liked.

After you go back to the barn area, your apples are weighed and you pay a very reasonable price per pound.  Of course we picked up an apple blondie to go too, since the smell of fresh baking was wafting through the air.  At this time of year who could resist.   Talk about farm to table!

A while ago, I picked up some steel cut oats thinking that they were similar to large flake.  Boy was I wrong.  While the oats are delicious, I hadn’t realized how much more prep would be needed for the steel cut variety.  I foolishly picked up the large bag and we’re still have about half a bag left.  Instead of always trying to use it up making breakfast, I searched for another way to use these wonderfully filling grains.  What did I find?  Honey oat loaf.  Since we have the fresh apples, why not combine the two?

This recipe requires a little prep as you have to soak the oats for a couple of hours before everything else is mixed together.  You could even do it overnight and leave them in the fridge if you like, but you really only need to soak them for a couple of hours.

After the oats have softened, place in large mixing bowl.  Preheat your oven to 350F.  Mix in your melted butter and honey while on the mixer is on low.  Add the eggs and mix well.  In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Blend the dry mix with a whisk until well combined.  While the mixer in on low, add about 1/3 of the dry ingredients.  Then add 1/2 of the milk, one more third of dry, the last of the milk, and finally, the last of the dry.  You should always end mixing with the dry ingredients.  That way you can tell if your mix is too wet or dry and you can adjust accordingly.  Then fold in the diced apples.   Place even amounts into two greased 8×5 pans and bake for 70 minutes.  The dough is very dense so it needs the longer bake time.

Once removed from the oven, immediately remove from the pans and let cool on the rack.  The steel cut oats give the loaf a nice chewy texture, interspersed with the warming flavour of apple and cinnamon.

apple, oat, cinnamon, loaf, savoury, bread, farm, picking, fall, autumn, harvest

Apple Oat Loaf

Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings 2 loafs

Ingredients

  • 2 cups steel cut oats
  • 2 cups water boiling
  • 4 1/2 cups All purpose flour
  • 5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter melted
  • 1/4 cup honey liquid, not creamy
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 2 cups apples peeled, small dice

Instructions

  1. Place steel cut oats in a large bowl and cover with the two cups of boiling water. Let sit uncovered at room temperature for 2 hours. Stir once half way through.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  4. In a small microwave safe bowl, melt butter and honey then stir into bowl with oats.
  5. Beat egg into milk and alternately add milk mixture and flour mixture to large bowl with oats stirring with a wooden spoon as you add each. Do not over mix, just mix to combine wet into dry. Fold in diced apple pieces.
  6. Generously spray two standard size loaf pans (8X5) with non-stick cooking spray and scrape the dough into the pan, using half the batter for each. Using a spatula, smooth out the top then place in oven for 70 minutes (one hour and ten minutes), or until a tooth pick inserted in center comes out clean. The dough is dense so we recommend leaving in for the full 70 minutes.
  7. As soon as the bread comes out of the oven, remove from pan and cool on a wire rack to cool completely. Slice and serve with additional drizzled honey.

Recipe Notes

Note: this bread is not meant to be that sweet.  I personally like to use more tart apples for a greater contrast in taste.  Experiment and let me know how you do.