Apples always equate autumn to me. Growing up in Georgia, every fall saw us traipsing off to the North Georgia mountains for apple picking, apple festivals, apple anything. Roadside stands littered the drive with handmade signs announcing an array of apple delights.
For me, everything paled in comparison to the huge apple orchards that opened to the public for U-pick excursions. These operations usually offered a wide variety of activities for kids and adults including hay rides, bounce houses, apple bobbing, apple contests, petting zoos, etc. There was always a little store overflowing with apple bread, apple pies, apple fritters, fresh apple cider, and of course, already picked bushels and baskets of apples for those who would rather not wander the orchards.
There were rows and rows of preserved produce, offering any kind of pickled or canned fruit and vegetable you could think of along with a dizzying number of jams and jellies. And then there was the apple butter… When I first came across it I thought, what an amazing idea! Apples and butter in some wonderous concoction to spread on pancakes, muffins and quick breads? Alas, that was not the case. It was kinda like mediocre pie filling and applesauce had tripped together into a pot and cooked down to a thick spread. Eh, it didn’t really do anything for me.
So when I started working on a post about apple butter I was determined to free it from the kitschy country store and make it more versatile.
First, most applesauce and apple butter recipes I came across had the apples being cooked in some kind of liquid. This seemed counter-intuitive to me because you then had to turn around and cook down the pureed mixture to thicken it. I decided to roast my apples because not only would I forgo excess liquid but the roasting process would concentrate the flavors of the apples. I chose a mixture of Fuji, Granny Smith and Pink Lady for a lovely sweet/tart balance.
Once roasted, a quick run through the Ankarsrum berry strainer and I had applesauce. In case you need a refresher: Assembly of Berry/Juice Strainer
At this point I could have stopped, added a little Honey Vanilla Syrup (from the brunch blog) or cinnamon and sugar and had a nice batch of homemade applesauce. But I persevered, and took the apple butter on a savory path by adding a little rosemary and salt and pepper. Say What?!? Yep, a little spice and some oven time with the sweet roasted apples and suddenly my apple butter broke free from the red and white checked jam jar and into a whole new world of food. The possibilities for it seemed endless.
Charcuterie platter missing something? Rosemary apple butter. Bacon and arugula sandwich rather lackluster? Rosemary apple butter. Tired of cranberry sauce with your turkey? Rosemary apple butter. Pork chops tasting dull? Rosemary apple butter. Does your cornbread need to be cheered up? Rosemary apple butter.
And yes, it still likes to hang out with muffins, pancakes and quick breads.
Rosemary Apple Butter
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours, 10 minutes
2 pounds each Fuji, Pink Lady and Granny Smith apples
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Set up the Ankarsrum mixer base with the berry press/strainer attachment.
Thoroughly wash the apples. Cut any small or medium apples in half and cut large ones in quarters. Lay the apples out on 2 half-sheet pans, skin side down.
Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pans and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes until the apples are soft. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Adjust the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Once the apples are slightly cool, puree them through the Ankarsrum; using the plunger to push them down through the machine. Run the waste through several times to extract all the apple pulp.
Add the puree to a 6 quart enameled dutch oven along with the remaining ingredients. Cook, uncovered, in the oven for 3 1/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Once cooked, remove the apple butter from the oven and allow to cool completely.
Once cooled, store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Alternately, place in freezer safe containers and freeze for up to 6 months. Use as desired.
Yield: 2 1/2 cups