Blog post by: Alisa
No, I don't make everything homemade, but, where possible, I will try at least once just to know that I can. You could skip the peeling, slow-cooking, and house filled with the fragrance of cinnamon apples by simply picking up a jug of apple cider at the grocery store. However, if you have the inclination, you will be richly rewarded with your very own apple cider, applesauce (it makes a lot!) and possibly apple butter, and a home scented with a heavenly Fall perfume.
14 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into eighths
4 cinnamon sticks
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
Pinch of ground ginger
2 tbsp brown sugar
Add all of the ingredients to a large slow cooker (Crock Pot) and add enough water to just cover apples. Be sure to press them down with a plate or a clean hand to know when to stop adding water. They will float, and could cause you to add too much water. Cover with lid and cook on HIGH for 4 to 5 hours. When the apples are soft enough to break down easily when pressed with a fork, you know they are done. Don't mash them up yet! Allow apples and liquid to cool a bit before the next step so that you don't burn yourself on the crock or with the steam from the liquid. Place a strainer or colander over the top of a large pot and pour the apples and liquid from the slow cooker into the strainer. Dump the drained apples back into the crock and mash into applesauce consistency. If needed, strain the cider again to remove smaller particles. A fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth lining the colander will take care of the bits. Taste the cider while it's still warm and decide if it's sweet enough to suit your preference. If not, add brown or white sugar til you reach desired sweetness. The cider is delicious served warm or cold.
For the applesauce, all you need to do is mash the soft apples to desired consistency. If you decide to sweeten the sauce a bit (can use brown or white sugar, agave syrup, stevia, etc), it's always best to add the sweetener while the apples are still warm. Depending on the apples, you may not need any sweetener at all.
For apple butter, add as much of the sauce as you want to a food processor and pulse until it reaches a very fine consistency. Put the apple butter back into the slow cooker and cook for another hour to hour and a half (WITHOUT the lid), until some of the moisture has evaporated and you have a thick, fruity spread. Again, taste test for desired sweetness. Store apple butter in sterile containers with tight-fitting lids or freeze in small batches.
For a real fall treat (Caramel Apple Cider), heat up 8 ounces of cider, add 2 tablespoons caramel sauce, and stir until blended.
Enjoy the bountiful apple harvest!