I was a busy bee over the weekend. Bought a bushel of mixed apples grown right here in Michigan, and made applesauce and apple butter. Sounds so simple with so few words, but it’s actually quite a lot of work, even though I significantly changed two labor-intensive steps.
I have a food press, one of those cone-shaped dealies with a wooden pestle. It’s hard work to press apples with their peels, cores, seeds and stems through it, and you’re constantly cleaning out the scrap. I also have an attachment for my Kitchen Aid that will separate the scrap from the apple flesh, but I didn’t want to dirty more dishes.
I saw on Food Network’s The Pioneer Woman – Ree Drummond’s program, that she peeled her apples to make applesauce, bypassing the separation of pulp from everything else.
That was my first shortcut: Dan and I peeled that entire bushel of apples. I cored and sliced all of them. It took two large kettles to cook all the apples down. I added just a little bit of water to each kettle and let them cook for about 45 minutes at medium-high. I’m glad I didn’t fill those kettles more than halfway: cooking apples expand before they break down!
Three years ago, when I tried this the first time, I used 100% Honeycrisp apples and Honeycrisp apple cider for sweetening. This time I got a mixed bushel and used water and sugar. The Honeycrisp are superior for eating out-of-hand and for making cider, but they tend to be WET and don’t do well for pies or for applesauce. With too much juice, the applesauce is loose, and runny. It’s just not a good texture.
With the mixed varieties bushel, this year’s applesauce was luscious and THICK. My second labor saving shortcut was using my immersion blender to break down the cooked apples, in their kettles, so I didn’t have to dirty my food processor. This did take a good amount of arm strength; I had a LOT of apples in those kettles.
Then I poured the contents of one kettle into my crockpot to make apple butter. Added some brown and white sugar, cinnamon, cloves and allspice, turned it on LOW and let it go until Sunday morning. I wanted the apple butter nice and smooth, so I used the immersion blender again in the crockpot. The pieces that didn’t get ground up, got fished out for Quality Assurance Control(tm). Mmmmm!
I let the other kettle of apples cool on the stove, adding in about half a cup of brown sugar and half a cup of white sugar and stirring it well.
SUNDAY was canning day. While the apple butter was boiling in the crockpot, I washed the jars, kept them in hot water, and got started. I made up 15 half-pints of apple butter, with one small spoonful left over!
When the apple butter was canned, I poured the second kettle of applesauce into the crockpot, stirred in all the leftover apple butter bits, and blended the applesauce a bit more with the immersion blender. This time I did leave chunks in. I turned the crockpot on HI and had a 3-hour break before starting up the canning machine again. I canned up 9 pint jars and 1 half-pint and had NO applesauce left!
So for the weekend efforts Dan and I turned one bushel of apples into just over 2 gallons of applesauce and apple butter! I had -all- the jars and lids, I invested $7.50 into that bushel of apples, making each half pint cost 22 cents. That’s a lot of fun for not a lot of $$ and I don’t think I lost out on too much extra by not using the entire apple, core, seeds, peel and all.