Spiced Maple Sugar Apple Butter
It’s fall in Vermont and that means fresh apples! We love picking apples at the local orchard, as well as experimenting with the wild varieties that grow around our farm. Macintosh and Cortland are two of the most common and readily available apple cultivars. However, the Northeast is actually home to over 7,500 cultivars, many of which were developed over 400 years ago. Our fields and woods are filled with apple trees that bear fruit resembling the Golden Russet, Jonagold and Jonathan cultivars. This apple butter is extra special with a few different types of apples but using all the same apples creates delicious butter as well.
Apple butter is similar to to jam, with a rich apple flavor. Spread it on toast, mix it into yogurt, put a dollop on oatmeal or use as a cheese pairing. Using maple sugar as a sweetener increases the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, as well as creating more depth of flavor. Apple flavor is enhanced by using the entire apple, skin and core included, and then straining the pulp through a food mill.
- 4 pounds apples (about 10 to 12 medium), washed, unpeeled, uncored, cut into 1-inch chunks
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 allspice berries
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1 star anise pod
- 1-2 cups granulated maple sugar
- Small pinch kosher salt
- Combine apples, vinegar, allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, ginger, star anise pod and 4 cups water in a large, heavy bottomed pot over high heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are completely softened and the liquid has reduced by half, 30 to 40 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- Leaving behind allspice berries, cinnamon sticks and star anise pod, pass the apples through a food mill.
- To finish on the stovetop: Place apple pulp in the same large, heavy-bottomed pot, add granulated maple sugar and stir to dissolve. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick, glossy and a deep golden brown (somewhere between honey and molasses), 2 to 2 1/2 hours. To test the thickness, spoon a bit onto a plate: The mixture should set almost immediately with no spreading or wateriness. If it’s not there yet, cook another 8 to 10 minutes and test again. When the desired consistency is reached, season with kosher salt.
- To finish in the oven: Heat oven to 300 degrees. Place apple pulp in a 9-inch by 13-inch (3-quart) baking dish, add granulated maple sugar and stir to dissolve. Place in oven and let cook, stirring every 30 minutes or so, until mixture is thick, glossy and a deep, golden brown color (somewhere between honey and molasses), 3 to 3 1/2 hours. To test the thickness, spoon a bit onto a plate: The mixture should set almost immediately with no spreading or wateriness. If it’s not there yet, cook another 20 to 30 minutes and test again. When the desired consistency is reached, season with kosher salt.