Mmm….Apple Butter Season
Apples are one of the delights for this time of the year. Apples are irresistible as snacks or as ingredients in recipes. Apple cider and apple juice are popular beverages for all ages. Families dehydrate apples, make applesauce and apple butter, and store apples to enjoy all winter. Apples can enhance the nutrition in your diet and provide dietary fiber. According to the North Carolina Apple Growers Association, most apples in North Carolina are produced in our mountain counties. The four major varieties produced in North Carolina are Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Rome Beauty and Galas. If you want to know about growing apple trees, you can contact the Mitchell County Extension Center. For food preservation recipes and procedure information, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website or contact your Mitchell Center of N.C. Cooperative Extension at 688-4811.
The N.C. Apple Growers Association recommends that when buying apples, choose firm apples and store small quantities a plastic bag in the refrigerator and store large quantities covered with a damp towel in a plastic lined container in a cool dark place such as a cellar. Working with apples is pretty easy. When preparing apple slices as a snack or for recipes, an apple corer or apple cutter are handy tools. To keep apples from turning brown, you can dip the slices or cubes in lemon juice and water or use commercial ascorbic acid which is found in the canning supplies section of the grocery store. For recipes, one pound of apples will be about 2 large or 3 medium apples and yields close to 3 cups of diced fruit. A bushel of apples weighs around 48 pounds and will yield an average of 14-19 quarts of applesauce.
Making apple butter is a mountain tradition. Some popular apple varieties used for apple butter include Jonathan, Winesap, Stayman, Golden Delicious, and MacIntosh. The USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning recommends processing the following recipe in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes for half-pints and pints and for 15 minutes for quarts at altitudes of 1,001-6,000 feet. The boiling water bath canning process kills spoilage microorganisms to give canned fruit a longer storage life. Try the USDA research-based recipe below:
8 lbs apples
2 cups cider
2 cups vinegar
2-1/4 cups white sugar
2-1/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground cloves
Wash, remove stems, quarter, and core fruit. Cook slowly in cider and vinegar until soft. Press fruit through a colander, food meal or strainer. Cook fruit pulp with sugar and spices, stirring frequently. To test for doneness, remove a spoonful and hold it away from steam for 2 minutes. It is done if the apple butter remains mounded on the spoon. Another way to determine when the butter is cooked adequately is to spoon a small quantity onto a plate. When a rim of liquid does not separate around the edge of the butter, it is ready for canning. Fill clean, hot jars with hot apple butter leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles with plastic straight edge and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with dampened clean paper towel. Close with a new canning lid that has been placed in boiling water and secure ring only finger tight, do not over tighten. Place jars in a boiling water canner covering the jars with 1-2 inches of boiling water, and count the processing time when the water in canner returns to a boil after jars are added. Leave lid on canner during processing. When processing time is up, remove from heat and after 5 minutes, remove jars from canner to place on a towel away from a draft. Check jar lids after 12 hours for seals. Jars that did not seal, can be reprocessed with a new lid within 24 hours, or the unsealed jars can be placed in the refrigerator to be used within a week or two. Once sealed jars have cooled, remove the ring, and store jars in a cool, dark place.