Environmentalist and folk musician Pete Seeger once asked me to make apple butter at the Clearwater’s Annual Pumpkin Sail Festival in Beacon, New York. In one of his letters, he suggested, “We could make the people of the downriver area more conscious of the fact that the Hudson Valley is a great apple-producing region and produces many varieties besides the standard Delicious and Macs.” And so we made lots of apple butter.
To make apple butter in quantity, quadruple the recipe and cook for several hours.
8-9 medium apples (Paula Red, Golden Delicious, Empire, Ida Red, McIntosh, Gala)
1 teaspoon water
1 pound (2 1/2 cups) brown sugar (editor’s note: substitute Sucanat, a whole foods sugar found in health food stores)
1. Core and quarter the apples. Place in a large pan, add the water, cover, and simmer on low for 30 minutes, or until soft. Stir the apples halfway through the cooking time.
2. Grate the zest of the orange and reserve in a bowl. Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice into the zest. You should have 1/2-3/4 cup juice.
3. Press the cooked apples through a sieve. Discard the skins, return the pulp to the pan, and stir in the sugar, grated zest, and orange juice.
4. Simmer over very low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick – about 1 1/2 hours. (Or pour the mixture into a roasting pan and bake uncovered at 350 F for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Reduce the oven to 250 F and bake 2-3 hours longer, or until thick.)
5. Sterilize two pint jars. Remove the mixture from the heat and ladle into the hot, sterilized pint jars; leave 1/4 inch of headroom. Run a rubber spatula around the inside of the jar to release air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean cloth. Cap each jar according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath (consult with a cookbook directions on boiling bath canning).
Yield: 2 pints