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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Slow Cooker Apple-Pear Butter

The Morning:

You would think, the first morning of school vacation, Mom would sleep in...like the teen.  Oh no, I woke up at 5:49 a.m. with my heart pounding because I thought a spider was on my pillow.  Turns out it was a couple of pieces of my long curly hair drifting against my arm in the draft of the ceiling fan.  I tried to lay back down after turning off the light (I had to make sure it wasn't a spider...so I turned on the light and searched my bed - Lordy I am bordering on neurotic :-)

Anyway, my feet hit the floor at 6:00 for the day - I could tell I was wide awake - no sense laying there.  Out of habit, I had set the coffee pot to brew at 5:45...so I wonder if my nose hoisted me out of REM sleep, where I then became aware of spider legs hair floating against my arm.  Who knows, but since it happened, it sure was nice to have freshly brewed coffee awaiting me in my carafe!  I'm treating myself to a White Chocolate Mocha creamer this week instead of the usual Half and Half in my coffee.  So, my Starbucks Breakfast Blend, and this luscious creamer made me almost bounce, I was so ready to get going on my day!
First order of the day was getting the crock pot filled with cinnamony apple goodness - today I'm making the Slow Cooker Apple-Pear Butter recipe I found in the Everyday Food magazine...and of course, because I always tweak things - I'm doing the same here.  I plugged in the Christmas tree lights, put on 5 Christmas CDs in the player, opened the blinds, cracked the deck door to let in the cool morning air...and got down to business.

Let's start with my rendition of the recipe:

Ingredients:
2 1/2 pounds apples (I used a mixture of Gala and Granny Smith)
2 1/2 pounds pears (I used a mixture of ripe and moderately firm Bartlett)
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp coarse salt (I used Kosher salt)
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground Allspice
Grating of nutmeg (not even 1/4 tsp - 3 or 4 quick rasps)


Equipment:
I found it helpful to make a plastic bag-lined bowl for peels and cores (more on that later).
Cutting board, paring knife, larger Santoku-style knife, 2 different peelers, and a bench scraper
A bowl to put the peeled fruit in
A food processor with grating disk and large bowl set up
A silicone scraping spatula
A 5 quart (or larger) crock pot - I used a crock pot liner to avoid clean-up issues - I have an 18 year old crock pot and it is NOT easy to clean.

Method:

Apples and Pears Quartered and Cored - Ready to Roll!

Peel, quarter, and core apples and pears (don't worry if they start to brown - they are going to end up dark brown when all is said and done - so oxidation is not an issue if you are getting it all done fairly quickly).
In food processor, grate fruit (I had to do it in 2 batches).  The original recipe calls for small grate...but apparently my food processor only has one grater.  Since you are going to process it again - I'm not concerned.
Transfer grated fruit to crock pot.  Stir in dark brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon stick.
Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.

At end of first 4 hours, remove cinnamon stick (reserve) and carefully transfer mixture to food processor bowl with chopper blade (I did it in 2 batches) and pulse until smooth (I didn't over-process - I wanted mine to look pulpy).  Return processed mixture to crock pot, add cinnamon stick back to the batch.  Cook on high UNCOVERED for 2 more hours.  Add the ground allspice, ground cloves, and nutmeg.  Cook uncovered until mixture is thick and brown - about 2 more hours.  The spices at this point are my addition to the recipe.  I like a spicy apple butter.
Discard cinnamon stick and allow mixture to cool.
Transfer to airtight containers and refrigerate up to 3 weeks, or freeze up to 3 months.
Makes 6 cups (well, mine didn't - it made about 4 1/2 cups and I took it out 30 minutes early).



So - I had a new peeler I had not used very often.  I didn't feel adept at using it...I've used a swivel peeler for most of my life and after I acquired the Oxo Swivel Peeler, I thought I'd never use anything else.  However, all the cooking show chefs seem to use a Y-peeler...so I bought one about a year or so ago.  Just felt awkward to me.  Today, however - I got both out and set up my work station.  First I weighed the fruit to get a full 5 pounds using my nifty sorta new EatSmart Precision Pro kitchen scale I got from Amazon.  It is a perfect little scale, and doesn't take up much room on the counter...or fits easily in a drawer.  I tared out the bowl and piled in apples and pears until I got a couple of ounces over 5 pounds.  Good to go!

I started peeling with the Y-peeler...wow, it was GREAT on the pears.  Really fast.  The apples were a bit of a challenge, but I got better the more I used it.  A couple of times I thought I had nicked my fingernail but it must have just bumped it.  One apple was not peeling smoothly so I switched to my swivel peeler - I was shocked that it didn't feel as good now that I'd gotten accustomed to the Y-peeler.  Ha!  Now I know...like Momma always said "practice makes perfect"!  To make things speedier (cause that's a LOT of fruit to peel) I peeled everything first, using the bench scraper to clear my cutting board between each piece of fruit (love that tool) then went back and quartered and cored each piece.  I found it was easiest to use a paring knife to core the pears and the larger knife to lay the apple quarters on their side and cut the core out on an angle.

Peeled Apples and Pears



Grated in Food Processor

In slow cooker - ready to go
The food processor grating was a fast process - and the bowls were a quick cleanup because it was just fruit - rinsed out rapidly. (I hate the clean up process - so this is a plus)  I put a liner in my crock pot and added the apples and pears in two batches, scraping the processor bowl with a spatula.  Added the sugar, salt, and cinnamon stick, covered and set it on high.

Entire morning process...less than one hour...the length of time it took to listen to The Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Christmas Album...my favorite Christmas album from childhood.  My Mom used to wake us up at Christmas time blasting that album :-)  Good memories.  Good to cook to.  Clean up and "blog post part A" all finished by 9:00 a.m.!

The Afternoon (Blog Post Part B):


4 hour mark - before processing
after the processing step
I stirred about every hour - not in the recipe - but I enjoyed wafting the smell into the house!  At the 4 hour mark, I moved the slow cooker over by the food processor and very carefully ladled half of the partially cooked product into the food processor bowl and gave it a quick whirl.  It was about the consistency of applesauce. 


Six hours on high - added extra spices for last bit of cooking time
Then at the 6 hour mark I tasted it (tasted like cinnamony applesauce at that point) so added the additional spices.  It is really darkening at this stage and smells awesome.  I tasted it at 6 1/2 hours to check for spices...definitely better...more like apple butter!  I keep stirring because it is reducing significantly and I don't want it to burn.  Since it was cooking without the lid at this point, the caramelization was more rapid and the flavor more intense.

While I waited, I looked up why it is called apple butter when it doesn't have any dairy in it.  According to Wikipedia, it is because it is spread on bread...like butter...or used as a condiment.  That and the thick consistency.  It said it wasn't commonly used on sandwiches now - but it was historically.  Well, heck, they didn't grow up at my house!  My Momma routinely made peanut butter and Bama Apple Butter sandwiches.  It is one of my favorites to this day!  Yummm...when I typed those words it made me kind of hungry and I needed some protein.  I snitched a little of that hot apple-pear butter and cooled it down in the freezer in a ramekin...and made me a samich! OMG...delicious!  I felt like it was ready...but turned the crock pot to low and let it go another hour and wow, wow, wow.  This is some really good stuff.

So, ladies and gentlemen...I present my homemade apple-pear butter.  Will I make it again?  Oh yes - but only for special occasions.  It is a lot of prep work.  Definitely will become one of my holiday traditions!

Cooling - these are 2 cup containers and it filled about 1 1/2 cups of each container

So, Bon Appetit Y'all!!!


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4 comments:

  1. so you think you could do this w/ all pear? AJ has an issue w/ apples... hmm...might try it

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think you could if you got some hard/firm pears...and a few really ripe ones....so the sugars could caramelize. Let me know!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Had biscuits and sausage for breakfast - slathered both with the apple-pear butter. OMG - this is awesome goodness! Even better now that it has set up for over a week - the flavor is more intense and the consistency is perfect. I will definitely be making this on a regular basis - regardless of the amount of peeling required. It is so worth it!!!

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