Apples and plums are at the height of their season and the trees roundabouts are bowing under the weight of their fruit. We have a few tiny apples trees in our garden and some of our friends have trees too and as a result I ended up with a glut of apples, far too many eat and so I decided to turn some into jam.
While hunting for recipes I came across several recipes for a preserve called apple butter. I have heard of this before, but never tasted it. It turned out to be a smooth apple puree which is thick – the texture of softened butter – and often spiced with cinnamon and cloves, which many of you will know I absolutely adore. This seemed the perfect way to make use of the apples.
I was initially a little apprehensive about the recipe as I had read on several blogs that it can be quite time consuming and difficult to make. The process involves stewing the chopped apples, skin, core, pips and all until mushy and then pushing the mixture through a fine sieve to remove the ‘unwanted bits’ which results in a thick apple puree. Sugar and spices are then added and the mix is stirred constantly over the heat until thick.
This did indeed sound rather time consuming but it turned out to be remarkably easy and straight forward. I think it was actually easier than regular jam making, as not having to peel and core all the apples saved a lot of time and there was no tricky setting test to perform on the jam as its obvious once the puree has got thick enough to spread.
The resulting butter was gorgeous! It was smooth and thick and nicely spiced with the apples favourite accompanying spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. As I also had a large bag of plums from another fruit foraging trip I substituted a quarter of the weight of apples called for with plums. This along with the russet red skins of the apples produced a lovely pinkish blush colour of the puree.
As its called butter I had my first bite of it spread thickly on bread and for an apple lover it tasted delicious and absolutely jam packed with fresh apple flavour. I’ve since used it on top of porridge, swirled in yoghurt and as a filling for a cake. My meat eating family have also had it with their Sunday roast pork and declared it ‘fabulous.’
My only slightly negative comment is that a little apple vinegar is called for in the recipe. This helps preserve the apple butter but means a slight vinegary taste is noticeable if eaten straight away – only very very slight though. This didn’t bother me but I’ve found that this mellows out and disappears if you store it for a while – just like when making chutney. If you too have a glut of apples or fancy something a bit different to marmalade on your toast in the mornings then I highly recommend you whip up a batch of this.
Spiced Apple & Plum Butter
1.5kg apples – skin, core and all
225ml apple cider vinegar
400-500g caster sugar
¼ tsp ground clove
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Remove the stones from the plums and place into a large saucepan. Roughly dice the apples, leaving the skin, core and pips in. Place into the pan with the plums and pour over the water and vinegar.
Bring to the boil and allow to bubble for 20 minutes until the fruit is very soft and starting to break down.
Place a sieve over a large bowl and spoon in some of the fruit mush. Use a ladel to push and press the fruit through the sieve, catching the thick puree in the bowl below. The skin and pips will be left behind in the sieve – discard these before adding the next batch of fruit.
Weigh your finished puree and add 150g caster sugar per 500g of fruit puree. (I had 1.5kg fruit puree, so added 450g sugar).
Place 5-6 jars and their lids into a cool oven and set the temperature to 120C. Allow the jars to heat up with the oven and then sit for at least 10 minutes in the heat before using – this sterilises them and will prevent them from shattering when you add the hot apple butter later on.
Return the puree to the pan, add the sugar and spices and heat, stirring constantly for about 30-40 minutes. Don’t neglect to stir or it will start spitting at you or stick and burn to the base of the pan.
Once the puree has thickened to a spreadable consistency, remove from the heat.
Remove the hot jars from the oven and divide the hot apple butter between the jars. Screw the lids on while the contents are still hot, wearing rubber gloves to protect your hands. (Screwing the lids on while the contents are still hot will create a vacuum inside the jar as it cools down. This will seal the jars and mean they can be stored without spoiling for several months).
Allow to cool on the side before storing in a cool dark place until required. Once opened, store in the fridge.
Makes 5-6 jars
Note: You can of course use all apple in place of the apple & plum combo above