Forget about all the pumpkin spice hype; fall is prime apple harvest season. From fresh-pressed apple cider to homemade pie, there are a million ways to cook with the sweet, seasonal crop. There's also almost as many varieties as there are recipes — more than 2,500 in the U.S. alone according to the University of Illinois Extension. One of the easiest ways to use up a bag of apples is to make a big batch of apple butter, which is just the fruit cooked down to make a thick, spreadable, delicious paste.
The recipe is extremely simple -- you just need apples, vinegar, cider, and spices. Basically, you combine everything in a heavy-bottomed pan and cook it until the apples break down and a lot of the water has evaporated. The only trick to making the best apple butter is to use the right varieties of apples so that you can get a smooth finished texture. The trick with apple butter is to get from raw apple to cooked paste with as little effort as possible, so try to always choose varieties like Braeburn, Fuji, Cortland, and McIntosh that are soft because they will break down and cook the fastest. That's the key.
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Making Your Own Apple Butter Is Easy And Economical
Even if you're not a great cook, you can make a batch of apple butter because it's so simple. It's basically applesauce that's cooked down enough for the sugars in the fruit to caramelize. And it tastes delicious! When apples come into season you can buy a big bag of fruit and make several cups of homemade butter for just a few dollars instead of spending the $5 or more it costs to buy tiny premade jars at the store. When you make your own apple butter you can also control how much sugar you use (or don't use). You can even experiment with different amounts of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves to find a flavor combination that you really love instead of the generic (and sometimes bland) versions you can buy at the store.
Most importantly, you can play around with different varieties of apples to find varieties that have the best flavors to make your butter really shine. Just be sure to choose soft varieties so that you don't end up with chunky butter. Harder varieties will need to cook longer or require a food mill or processor to make the mixture smooth, which is an unnecessary extra step if you use softer apples. In addition to Braeburn, Cortland, Fuji, and McIntosh, some other soft varieties that are easy to find in the fall include Liberty, Golden and Red Delicious, and Gala apples.
Talk To The Apple Farmer
If you're out apple shopping and you come across some varieties you're not familiar with, there's no shame in asking a few questions to find the softer varieties. If you're at a farmer's market, as long as it's not too busy, most farmers are more than happy to answer questions about their produce. A big grocery store might be a little more hit-or-miss when it comes to finding apple experts, but usually, a produce manager can tell you which varieties are the softest, and a small market or local co-op will most likely have someone around who can point you towards the best varieties. You can also, of course, do a quick Google search on your phone. Also, think like a cider maker and try mixing and matching a few different varieties to balance out the flavors and get the acidity right so that your finished apple butter tastes a little bit tart.
Make sure to get lots of fruit because ten pounds of apples cook down to only four or five pints of butter. It's also nice to have extra apple butter around for breakfast and charcuterie boards, and it's easy to preserve if you know how to do some home canning. Plus the jars make very tasteful gifts. If you're not handy with a pair of canning tongs, however, apple butter also freezes really well, so you can make a huge batch of butter and keep the fall flavors going all winter long.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.