Don’t ever throw out any apples that are getting old in your refrigerator, may be bruised, or you just don’t have the appetite to eat. Preserve them by turning them into apple sauce or apple butter.
Apple sauce is very simple. Simply peel and core your apples. Add them to a heavy bottomed stock pock with about a cup of water, depending on how many apples you do. You want just enough water to keep the apples from burning to the bottom before they start to breakdown and release their own water.
Stir the apples occasionally until they start to turn to sauce. Cook until desired consistency and/or most of the water has evaporated. If your sauce is too thin, pass it through a fine sieve to remove the excess water.
If you have a pressure cooker, this can reduce your cooking time and work significantly. Fill the pressure cooker with apples, add a half cup of water, and wait until the weight on top starts to whistle. Let the apples cook another five minutes and turn off the heat. If you have an electric stove, carefully move the pot to a cool burner. Wait for the pressure to release (don’t release it manually) and you’ll have apple sauce.
To make apple butter, simply take the apple sauce and add spices and sugar. The sauce will then be slow cooked to remove the water content and caramelize the apples and sugar. I recommend a half cup of sugar to each quart of apple sauce. You may also substitute honey.
As for spices, think of it like a pie. Try Allspice, Nutmeg, and Cinnamon. It is your apple butter, so be creative.
Cook the apple sauce, sugar, and spices on very low heat (stove top) or at about 200 degrees in the oven. Continue to stir frequently.
The easiest way (and least attention) is to use a crock pot. Mix your apple sauce, sugar, and spices in the crock pot. Turn it on low and loosely cover with the lid. You want the lid to be offset so that moisture may escape.
This will take 8 to 16 hours, depending on the water content of your apple sauce. Try starting your apple butter around dinner time and checking it the next morning.
When you are finished, the apple butter should be darker than it started, thicker, and of the consistency that a dollop on a plate will hold its shape without running over the plate.
To can the apple butter, get glass mason jars. Sterilize them in the dishwasher or boiling water. Add the hot apple butter to the hot jars, place clean lid on top and seal with the jar ring. Process the apple butter (still hot) in a boiling water bath. The jars should be completely covered with one inch of water above. Boil for 15 minutes.
If you have never canned before, you need to make sure your jars don’t touch the bottom of your pot. This will cause them to shatter. Find a wire rack or improvise by using extra jar rings to elevate them from the bottom of the pot.