Monday, October 31, 2011

In Which I Divulge My Grandmother's Secret Recipe to the Interwebs

Image by NixBC via Flickr

Every fall my paternal grandmother Bessie Allen Gray, made apple butter.  It was amazing and she
was famous for it.  If we were lucky, when she came to visit us she would bring a box of jars filled with the rich, cinnamon-y apple goodness.  It never lasted very long.  She was so famous for her apple butter that at her funeral in 1994, the preacher actually announced where the family could get it (i.e. from me) now that she was gone!  I'm not kidding.  That really happened.  Even now, at any gathering of my extended family you can expect the inevitable question..."hey did anybody learn how to make Grandma's apple butter?" This has made me very popular in the family.  Popular like a drug dealer popular.

Anyway, sometime around 1983, I decided to pay Grandma a visit and learn how to make apple butter from the master herself.  Here is how she did it.  First she cored and sliced the apples and cooked them in a big pan on the stovetop.  When they were cooked down, she ran them through a colander-type contraption called a ricer to make a smooth applesauce.  (The ricer step made peeling the apples before cooking unnecessary.  The apple sauce squished through the holes in the ricer leaving the peels behind.  You did have to stop every once in awhile to dump out the peels.)

This is a ricer.
 If all you wanted was applesauce, you could stop here.  But who wants to stop here. She then put the sauce into a huge metal pan, stirred in about 6 c. of sugar and baked it in the oven for several hours.  Then came her "secret" ingredient...oil of cinnamon.  It didn't take much, just 4 or 5 drops for the whole pan.  She also might add a 1/2 bag of red hots to give the apple butter a darker color.  After adding the oil of cinnamon she cooked it for another hour or so until it was thick and reddish brown and smelled like heaven.  While it was still hot she poured it into clean canning jars, screwed on the lids and waited for the seal to pop.  This is now totally against canning "rules".  Nowadays you must process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 min or someone will die a horrible death and you will go to jail.

This is the way I made my apple butter the for the many years. Minus the jail part.  Then I started experimenting  meddling.

First to go were the apple peels.  I'm totally paranoid about the amount of pesticides used on apples so I began peeling the apples before cooking them.  It really wasn't that much more time consuming, especially with one of these apple peeling gadgets and a husband who just loves playing with the aforementioned gadget.
My husband- peeling out.

Then there was the ricer.  While its a good job for the kids, I don't have kids at home anymore.  What I do have is a food processor.  Much faster than the kids.  Not nearly as cute though.

The next modification was the oven.  There was a reason for cooking apple butter in the fall, besides the obvious reason that you had to wait for apple season.  Having the oven going for several hours at a time heats up your house big time ....not a task for summertime.  Then one day I realized I had a crock pot.  Actually I have two crock pots.  And it would be a heck of a lot easier to cook the apple butter in the crock pot than in a big heavy metal dish pan that had to be put in and out of the oven while hopefully not dropping any of the hot apple butter (not to mention the hot pan itself) on your toes.  I found it much safer and easier using the crock pot and the apple butter tasted just as good.  Go me.

Finally, I decided to play it safe and actually can the apple butter in a boiling water bath.  It doesn't take that long and I feel a lot better about giving it away to people I like and do not want to poison.  People I don't like on the other hand......

Next:  My not-so-secret recipe for apple butter a la Grandma.

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  1. Sounds so good! Look forward to the recipe . . . I can do the crock pot method!

  2. Yum!!! It's been so long since I've had homemade apple butter. I'll look forward to your recipe. I bet your Grandmother would approve and love your modern day addaptions....especially the people peeler!!!


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