It is apple butter but no butter involved. There never is. It’s like an egg cream — no egg, no cream. “Butter” refers to the smooth texture of the apple conserve and I have fond memories of making this apple-tastic confection with my Mom when I was small. Because of our super prolific peach and plum trees, we permanently seemed to have a boiling pot of empty jars on the stove, in the throes of putting up either plum or peach jam. Apples were an exciting novelty in our jam-making frenzy.
A friend in Pacifica has a big apple tree in the yard of her bungalow by the beach. The fruit is popular with the raccoons but the apples don’t look like much for human consumption. So we buttered them!
I used my Mom’s Joy of Cooking recipe for apple butter, which incidentally isn’t in MY Joy of Cooking because it’s a later edition. I think it’s worth including here because home canning has become sort of mystical and it needn’t be. And unless you have my Mom’s ancient “Joy” you can’t find this recipe which is just easy and fun.
Pacifica Apple Butter
Apples — whatever you got — completely intact but clean
Water to cover them in a pot
1/2 cup of sugar for each cup of pulp you get (see below)
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon for each cup of pulp
Nutmeg, cloves, and allspice to taste
1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
Jars and lids and tongs to remove them
Remove the stems from your apples and quarter them. Cover them with water in a big pot and cook them until they are soft. Once they have softened to the point of falling apart, force the entire contents of the pot, including the water, through a sieve.
You should have the seeds and skins left in the sieve and nothing else. Toss them. They did their job, infusing the pulp with pectin.
Return the pulp to the pot and add lemon juice. Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved. Allow the mixture to boil briefly and then reduce heat and simmer, stirring intermittently, until the mixture forms sheets off of your spoon. This should take about a half an hour to forty minutes, depending how watery your apples were and what the weather is like. The other way to test if your butter is ready is to put a plate in the freezer and then drop a few drops of butter on the cold plate. If the butter forms firm drops without any water around the edges, it’s ready.
While your butter is cooking, place the empty jars and lids in a huge pot of water and boil them thoroughly. You don’t have to buy those cute little canning jars my Mom has. You can reuse jars from jam you have eaten previously, provided you have the right lids saved too.
Once your butter is ready, use the tongs to remove a jar, dumping the water out before you add the preserve. Fill the jar but leave a half inch at the top for the jam to expand. Use your tongs to put on a lid and tighten until it catches. Later that night, you will want to tighten the jar again before you go to bed. By morning, your jam should have formed a seal. My Mom likes to make her own labels at this point. We have reserved the largest jar for the Pacifica bungalow dwellers who provided the apples.