Since I already wrote a post about my love for my breadmaker, I thought I would tell you about what I worked on in my kitchen the other day -- what I would even dare to call "bread's perfect companion" (although I'll probably say that about another recipe I have planned too... :)
**Spoiler alert!!** Mom, Dad, Grandmas, other family members -- this post is going to detail your Christmas gifts. If it serves to make you hungry in anticipation of the day you receive my gift, great. If you don't want to know what I'm making, stop reading. Although the title of this post pretty much gives it all away anyway.**
This year for Christmas things are a little tight. As I'm sure they are for a lot of you. And since I always wonder what to get for those parents and grandparents in our lives who already have "everything" -- other than updated pictures of Abby of course -- I started thinking about cheap, consumable things I could get/make/give them. After seeing this pin on Pinterest (which you may remember seeing mentioned in my Pin the halls with boughs of holly post), I had my idea!
Apples were buy one bag get one free last week. So on Tuesday morning I visited my favorite recipe website in search of the perfect apple butter recipe. I'd heard it can be made in the crockpot, and since I was going to be home all day I figured I'd give it a try!
I peeled and chopped my apples, and put them in the crockpot. I think I had about 14 apples total, a mix of one bag sweet and one bag tart. Then I mixed together the sugar and spices and dumped them on the apples, stirring to coat.
I covered it and turned the cooker on high for an hour, then low/warm for about 7 hours. Very similar to making applesauce. Once the apples were really really soft and brown, I mashed them with a potato masher, then decided to make things a little messy in the kitchen... :) I scooped the mixture into my blender and made it super smooth (it took 2+ batches in my blender). Then I dumped it all back in my crockpot and left the lid off for a couple of hours, stirring every 1/2 hour or so. I'm sure I've said it before, but my crockpot likes to cook HOT. So the entire process didn't take as long as most recipes say, and I needed to be extra careful I didn't burn the fruit.
At this point, the longer it cooks, the better! The difference between applesauce and apple butter is that apple butter has cooked longer and therefore more water has evaporated (plus there's more sugar and spices in the butter). I read about a trick to know if your butter is done: Take a spoonful and put it on a plate, let it cool and see if 1) it holds it's shape and 2) there is no liquid (water) around the outside of the puddle.
You can still see some liquid in this photo. I think I let my butter go another hour or two after this.
And that's all there is to it! At this point you can process your containers of butter however you choose -- it both freezes well and cans well. I'd gotten some cute, small jelly jars (4 oz) and decided to can them.
Then I realized I don't have proper canning equipment. Oops.
It was nearly 8:00 at night, and I didn't have a car (the hubby was at his master's class), so I wasn't about to walk down to the store. So I searched my cupboards and here's what I came up with:
Not ideal, but it worked. Each jar only had to boil for 5 minutes. Yes I had to do them one at a time, so it took me an hour. But it got done. :)
This batch ended up making a dozen 4 oz jars, plus one 8 oz freezer container (which I brought to school yesterday with some homemade bread... :)
So my plan for Christmas? A basket with a jar of apple butter, a jar of cinnamon honey butter, and a small loaf of homemade bread. Yum!
How will you celebrate National Homemade Bread Day today?? :)
|Slow Cooker Apple Butter|
5 1/2 pounds apples - peeled, cored, and chopped
4 cups white sugar (you REALLY do need a lot of sugar -- don't cut it down too much or the butter won't solidify)
1 Tb ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
Place the apples in a slow cooker. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar and spices. Pour the mixture over the apples in the slow cooker and mix well. Cover and cook on high 1 hour. Reduce heat to low and cook 7 to 11 hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and dark brown. [After this point I took the time to put the butter through my blender for a smoother consistency] Uncover and continue cooking on low 1-3 hours. Stir occasionally. Spoon the mixture into sterile containers, cover and refrigerate, freeze, or process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.