I have a friend who, in my mind, is the Queen of preserves. When we lived in the same city, I often went to her house for dinner and I rarely left without a jar of something special. She makes plum butter, fig preserves, jams, all kinds of delicious goodies. It was quite inspiring, really. So I found myself a teeny tiny pressure canner on eBay and when I found a good deal at the store on apples I decided it was time to take the plunge. I loved the result and a week later I was at it again. It was just after Thanksgiving so I also had a bag of cranberries in the fridge.
There is something so lovely about filling my kitchen with the smells of apple and cinnamon. Making Apple Butter takes a couple of hours so the house gets deliciously warm. It's a low maintenance project. You just have to stir it here and there while you potter around doing other things. Thats really one of the best things about making preserves in my mind. They are a labor of love. It takes time to develop flavor and adjust spices, with lots of tasting in between. For me, it's a relaxing Saturday morning task, one best done in pajamas with a ready supply of hot tea.
Apple Butter is a favorite in my house. It goes really well on toast or bread, and it is particularly perfect on fluffy biscuits. It's thicker than apple sauce and it isn't as sticky as a jam. The idea for this comes from one of my favorite Southern breakfast places; the Flying Biscuit. They are famous for their biscuits and they always come with a yummy dish of apple butter on the side. This is definitely a nod to them, and to my friend Laurie, the Queen of preserves.
Cranberry Apple Butter
The best apples here would be something like a Granny Smith, but honestly you can use anything you want as an apple base. The apple cider vinegar really pulls out the apple flavor, and you're going to hit it up with a lot of spices. Taste often and play with the spices until you are happy.
4lb Apples, peeled, cored and diced
12 oz cranberries
2 Cups Water
3 Cups Sugar
2 Tablespoons Cinnamon
2 Teaspoons Nutmeg
2 Teaspoons Ground Cloves
1 Teaspoon Allspice
1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
Zest and juice of one Lemon
Put all of the ingredients in a large heavy saucepan over a medium heat. Stir occasionally for thirty minutes. The cranberries will start to burst and the apples will soften up. Grab a potato masher and squish up the apples. Then turn the heat down a little and let it cook. Stir every so often so that the butter doesn't start to burn on the bottom. The butter will reduce and thicken. Start tasting after about another thirty minutes, and adjust the seasoning as you like. It's probably going to take another hour for it to be nice and thick. If you like it smoother, you can puree three quarters of it in a blender, which I would actually recommend.
Sterilize the jars you want to use and then pour in the butter, process them in a regular water bath or or a pressure canner for about twenty minutes. Let them sit and cool and make sure they seal.
If you put them in pretty jars, they also make great gifts.
Makes around 64oz.