While I await the dawning of this New Year’s Eve, I am enjoying some of the fruits of my holiday labor, in the form of some of my wonderfully spicy hot apple cider, which I have had going more or less continually for the past two weeks. There’s simply nothing like it when it is really cold outside – warm, tasty, health-giving and soul-satisfying.
Although both our Stayman Winesap and Fuji apple trees bore fruit for the first time this year, as did our Chicago Hardy fig and a number of our pears, peaches and nectarines, despite a late April frost that ki9lled most of the blooms and small fruit,, a hail storm in mid-May knocked off every single developing fruit that was left. Aaaarrrgggghhhh.
So, this year’s apple cider was made from purchased unfiltered apple cider, just as this year’s apple butter was made from Winesap apples purchased from Crooked Stick Feed Store, here in Doyle, Tennessee.*
The apples were a tad past their prime, and so I was given two ample half-boxes of heirloom Winesap apples for a mere $6, one of my favorite varieties, from which I made over six pints of absolutely fabulous apple butter.
The first batch I wound up simmering for three full days, using a stick blender to smooth it out, resulting in a richly dark brown and extremely fragrant apple butter. I had originally intended to add a small amount of pure Vermont maple syrup at the end, but when I tasted it, it was already so sweet that any added sweetener would have detracted from the flavor. In addition to the usual Ceylon (aka:REAL) cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves, both the spiced apple cider and the apple butter included ample amounts of turmeric and ginger, and small amounts of cayenne, chipotle pepper and black pepper, for better nutritional value, nutrient absorption, antimicrobial properties and immune system boost, along with a bite of heat and a lot of flavor.
For my second batch, I simmered the apple butter for a mere twelve hours, and blended it just a tad less smoothly, resulting in an apple butter that was as rich in flavor, but a tad more rustic, and every bit as good as the first batch.
In the future, I will simmer for twelve to fourteen hours and blend until smooth – the best of both worlds, at least to me. Both batches were finished by canning in a boiling water batch, for a full 30 minutes, since I had added no sugar. I want them to last long enough to be enjoyed.
Although I’ve made spiced apple cider and mulled wine for decades, this was my first try at apple butter, though it will definitely not be the last – both qualify as vegan and vegetarian, and although the spices may be a tad questionable, by most accounts they qualify as Paleo as well, particularly as there is no added sweetener of any kind.
With the addition of the non-GMO heavy cream I fermented with some of our milk kefir grains, they will be staples in our fall and winter kitchen from here on out. The apple butter and the fermented cream, in fact, are even better in combination than they are alone – we enjoyed them on toast, on Paleo banana bread, and on Polish naleśniki, which are crepe-like pancakes, and can be made either thick or thin depending upon their intended use. Great stuff.
I’ll do my best to post the basic recipes in the next few days. I tend to be a “little of this and a little of that” sort of cook, so I don’t always use precise measurements, but I can give you the measurements I started with as a guideline.
Love and Peace to All and to All a GOOD NIGHT!