Homemade Apple Butter – Part 1 – Applesauce

 

So while I was on my blogging break, I tried a few new things.  One of the biggest things I attempted was canning.  This is a very new thing for me, as we didn’t do this growing up and I don’t really know anyone that does it (as far as I know!).  I’ve seen so much about it online, and my sister tried it too, so I thought why not?

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Over the summer we went strawberry picking, so it seemed natural to make strawberry jam (my fav!).  It turned out beautifully, and now I have enough to last me for the whole year!  I’m now hooked.

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Okay, so why am I going on about canning and strawberry jam on a post for apple butter?  Well, I chose apple butter as my second canning project.  Since I didn’t post the jam yet (I plan to over the summer when it makes more sense for in season berries), I want to post my canning procedure now.  I was able to tweak my procedure a bit the second time around, so this is better timing anyway.  Everyone with me still? Great!

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So this apple butter post will be broken up into 3 parts:

Part 1: Making Applesauce

Part 2: Turning Applesauce into Apple Butter Using a Crock Pot

Part 3: Canning the Apple Butter

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And here we begin Part 1 — Making Homemade Applesauce

applesauce

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I have always loved apple butter, so imagine my surprise when I learned that in order to make this delicious spread you have to start with applesauce.  Huh.  While you certainly can buy some applesauce from the store to make your apple butter, I feel that defeats the whole purpose here.  Why not just buy the apple butter?  So step 1 is to make applesauce.  We went all out and started by going apple picking…

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apples

So. Many. Apples.

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This year’s crop was amazing and bountiful, so we ended up with a ton of huge ripe apples.  We ate as many as we could until my favorites, Cortland, started to go soft. Now it’s time for cooking.

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One thing to note about applesauce is that it’s best when you use several different varieties of apple.  Some people have a preference of which ones to use, but there’s really not a “right” combo. (although I would probably stay away from sour apples, like granny smith, since that flavor might not translate well) Since we had gobs of apples, we used what we had: Cortland, Jonagold, Gala, and Melrose.

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At this point, we come to a crossroad in our preparation.  The question now is: skin on or skin off?  The answer is: Do you have a food mill or sieve? I realize that’s answering a question with a question, but it’s a necessary evil.  A food mill (pictured below) or sieve are tools used to separate the skins after the apples have been cooked.

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food mill

(food mill)

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If you have one of these, cut and core your apples but leave the skin on.  There are tannins in the skin that will help with flavor and texture.  If you do not have one of these, fear not!  Just cut, core, and peel your apples.  They will cook just fine, and you can skip the milling step.  (BTW…Did you know that apple seeds have arsenic in them?! WHAT?!  Apparently you would have to bite open tons of them to have any effect, but still…make sure there’s no seeds left!)

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cook apples

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Whichever way you choose, fill a large pot with as many apple slices as you can.  Fill the bottom of the pan with about an inch of water or apple juice.  Cover, and heat until the apples are very soft.  This should take about 20 minutes.  You shouldn’t need to add any more liquid, as the apples will start to release their own juices.  Once cooked throughly, use a potato masher to smoosh the apples.

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mash apples

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If you had cut the skins off of your apples, you can simple drain out any access liquid (This is natural apple juice, drink it!).  If you like a thick chunky apple sauce, you’re done!  If you want it a little smoother, use an immersion blender to get the texture you desire.  At this point you should taste your applesauce, if you haven’t already.  If you feel it needs some sweetening you can add sugar to taste, but really you probably won’t need it.  Can or refrigerate your apple sauce. (see below if you are planning to take the next step to apple butter)

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If you left the skins on, you will need to run this all through your food mill.  Below is the setup I used.  Working from right to left (which did feel a little backwards, but it’s how the new kitchen is set up!), I scooped the apples out of the pot and into the food mill, which I placed over a container to catch the draining apple juice.  Once drained, I held the food mill over a large bowl, and turned the crank to separate the skins from the applesauce.  I learned that there is a right and wrong way to turn the crank.  After several turns (and thinking the thing was broken), I went the other way, and it worked like magic.

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process

(my assembly line)

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This process of separating the skins took quite a while, mostly because of draining the liquid out.  I simply watched TV shows during this part, and would come back during the commercials to mill the applesauce, and then set up the draining again.  I’m hoping someone can give me some tips on making that part a little faster… (Maybe drain before mashing?)

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Once all of the applesauce has been milled, give it a taste.  If it’s not sweet enough for you, add some sugar to taste.  Your applesauce is not done!  There’s a few options here:

1) If you are just going to use this as apple sauce, you can keep it plain, or add some cinnamon, or melt some red hot candies into it for pink applesauce, or do whatever tastes good to you.  Then you should either can or refrigerate it.

2) If you are going to make apple butter (as we will!), measure out exactly how much you will need (in our case, however much will fit into your crockpot) and keep that plain.  You can treat any leftover as regular applesauce. (I measured out what I needed for the apple butter, put it in a separate container, and refrigerated it, as I planned to make my apple butter a few days later)

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And that’s it!  Hand picked apples turned into delicious, natural, no preservative, no sugar (maybe) added applesauce!

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and done

It’s so pretty!

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Join us again here soon for Part 2 of our Apple Butter adventure, where we turn this amazing applesauce into the delicious spiced spread we’re all looking forward to!

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Have you ever made your own applesauce before?  Any tips, tricks, or different methods you would like to share?  We’d love to hear it in the comments below!

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Lizz

2 thoughts on “Homemade Apple Butter – Part 1 – Applesauce

  1. Wow! looks delicious! Add some cinnamon for a different flavor.
    I think this would make a very nice side dish for Thanksgiving dinner (hint, hint) 🙂

  2. Although used primarily for applesauce by three generations of women in my family, the food mill also was brought out occasionally if someone requested particularly smooth mashed potatoes, tomato sauce from scratch or baby food. It continues to be a vital tool in preparing foods for those who might need something pureed — babies, the elderly and the ill.

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