Monday, October 5, 2015

Overnight Vanilla Bean Apple Butter

  One of my very favorite things about Autumn is that it's apple season. I have never met an apple I didn't like, from sweet to tart to crispy, I love them all. And if there's the option of having an apple dessert, well, that's just a no brainer. I'll definitely be choosing it. So, of course, I'm always looking for new fun things to make with apples.
 Since I've recently gotten into canning and preserving, naturally I wanted to try a couple different recipes for apple butter. At first, I just made your basic straight up apple butter. Delicious, yes, but I wanted more flavors. Vanilla? YES. Spices? Definitely. Bourbon? Why not? So I did some googling and I found a fabulous recipe from a website called Rook No. 17. It's stupid easy to make, and the results are amazing! All you need is a little time in the crock pot and you're good to go!
 This is a slightly tweaked version of that recipe, just because I like to switch things up to suit my own tastes. When you make yours, feel free to play around with it however you like. Cut back on the sugar if you like it a little less sweet, add some nutmeg or try an apple pie spice blend if you like it a little spicier. The flavor is so rich, it will all work! And let me just tell you, you will never smell such a heavenly aroma in your entire life as you will while your apple butter is simmering away in your crock pot! It's just intoxicating! Store it in the fridge and eat it within a couple weeks, or can it in jars and store it for months. Either way, your family and friends will love you for it! Enjoy!

3 cups granulated sugar 
1 cup dark brown sugar 
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
5 -6 pounds apples - peeled, cored, chopped
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tbs lemon juice
2 whole vanilla beans, split and scraped   
3 tablespoons Bourbon (optional)

In the evening:
Into a large bowl, add all ingredients except bourbon. Toss to combine. Transfer mixture to a large crock pot and cook covered, on high, for two hours. Remove lid, stir, then cover.  Reduce heat to low and continue to cook through the night for 9-12 hours.
In the morning: 
Remove lid and cook for another hour, on low, uncovered. Remove vanilla pods. Use an immersion blender or transfer mixture to a food processor or blender (in batches) to puree.  Stir in bourbon and cook for one final hour, uncovered, on low.
To can, (if desired):
Bring to boil a large canning pot filled with water and fitted with canning rack. Fill sterilized jars with hot apple butter, leaving 1/2" head space. Wipe around the rim. Apply lids, fasten bands, and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Cool on towel lined counter until completely cool.  Check lids for vacuum seal before putting up.

  If you don't have orange juice on hand, you can simply leave it out. But definitely do not omit the lemon juice. (you can substitute apple cider vinegar, if you like). You need some sort of acid to brighten up the flavor and it's also required if you're planning to can using the water bath method.
  For the very best tasting apple butter, choose several different kinds of apples ranging from very sweet to very tart. Your apple butter will have an amazing depth of flavor!
  In this particular instance, definitely use whole vanilla beans as opposed to just using extract. I suppose you could, but the bean gives it a much richer flavor. If you do choose to just use the extract, be sure to use pure vanilla extract (not imitation vanilla flavoring) and add it at the very end, after the apple butter is finished cooking.
Feel free to let it cook longer, if you'd like, or if it's more convenient for you. I usually let it cook for much longer than the recipe directs, just because it usually takes me forever to get my act together when it comes to doing all the prep for canning! True story!

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