Lately, it’s been hard to tell if I live in Boston or Seattle. A seemingly-endless stretch of dark and drizzly days has been a boon to the fall garden- now full of leafy greens, brassicas, and some root crops- and a great excuse to stay indoors. As I keep hacking away at that can plan I devised many months ago, I am both relieved and saddened. I’m all but down to apples, onions, pears, greens, and cranberries on the list of goods to put up, signalling the end of the harvest season and the return to cross-country vegetables and fruits.
Mind you, I literally have dozens of kale plants in the Learning Garden that will hopefully provide hearty greens into December as well as floating row cover and plastic sheeting to create low-tunnels for an extended season of cut greens like arugula, spring mix, mustard greens, and pea tendrils. The lessening pace of growth has allowed me more time to reflect on my experiences this year at the farm and sort out potential projects and ideas I would suggest for next year’s garden. I look forward to spending the snowy (… maybe?) months of December and January writing out more detailed planting schedules for the garden and finding solid recipes for my 2013 preservation plan.
I have several preservation posts to publish but wanted to get this one up ASAP as we are in the midst of New England’s apple season. I have been drying apples up the wazoo this past week (and starting large batches of fermented apple cider vinegar as a result of having so many peels) but had a crate of big, heirloom-looking pommes that I knew I wanted to butter.
Last night seemed a fitting occasion to start a batch in the slow-cooker, which I canned an hour ago after about 9 hours gently simmering. I would feel quite comfortable calling the dee-lish cinnamon and clove-laced batch I made “apple pie butter,” but would prefer to leave the spice component up to the preservationist. Either way you go, pure Berkshire maple syrup paired with the sweet and crisp apples of central Massachusetts is autumnal New England at its finest.
Maple Apple Butter
Yields about 8 half-pints or 4 pints
- about 7 lbs apples, washed, cored, peeled, and chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1-2 cups pure maple syrup (a big THANK YOU! to the Holt family of Steve’s Sugar Shack)
- juice of a lemon
- spices (optional; I used 3 cinnamon sticks, 3 whole cloves, and a 1/4 tsp salt)
- water or apple cider, as needed (I used about a quart of water throughout the entire cooking process)
Combine all ingredients in a slow-cooker/crock-pot set on high heat; cook, covered but stirring occasionally, until the apples have softened to the point at which they can be easily mashed with a whisk, about 1-2 hours. Depending on your apples, you may need to add water or cider right away to prevent scorching; my apples (labeled “Mel Rouge” at the farmers market) were particularly dry, so I initially added about a pint of water along with the lemon juice. Once softened, remove the cloves and cinnamon sticks and puree the mixture using an immersion blender. Turn the slow-cooker onto low, cover, and prop open the lid with a wooden spoon to allow steam to escape; continue to cook the butter down until reduced by about half. At this point, a spoonful of butter held away from the steamy pot should remain mounded; if it rounds up onto the spoon but falls flat after several seconds, you’ve still got applesauce and should continue to carefully cook the butter down. Adjust the butter with additional syrup, sugar, or spices and puree again for a super-smooth product, if desired. Ladle hot butter into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace; wipe rims and adjust two-piece caps. Process in a boiling-water bath canner for 10 minutes.