We were given a bag and a map of where the different kinds of apples were in the orchard. Let me preface this by saying I have never actually liked apples that much. I like them in things, but I don't really like them by themselves. They just kind of seem like a plain fruit to me. Why have an apple when there are more exciting and pretty fruits like strawberries, kiwis or blackberries? I think it's because I've never had the right apples.
My friend showed me the correct technique of pulling them from the branch. You put the "eye to the sky" and lightly twist it off the branch, and never tug on the branches. She then pulled one off the tree, bit into it and ate it. "You can do that?" I said. I picked one off the branch, bit into it and thus commenced a whole new apple experience. It was the sweetest, freshest, juiciest apple I had ever tasted. We ended up splitting a bag of apples --about a 1/2 bushel-- and I still came away with more apples than I know what to do with. Obviously my first inclination was to make apple butter:
I recently made my own applesauce and have been intrigued by the idea of apple butter. I suppose it's not really a sauce or a preserve, but more of a spread. The mixture is thickened by using apple cider instead of just sugar and spices as with apple sauce. The orchard we went to sold fresh apple cider, so I was sure to stock up on a jug. I still don't really know what to eat the apple butter with besides bread, but I now have seven jars of it to unload on people as early Christmas presents.
Apple Butter (recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Canning Magazine)
Ingredients (makes approx. 6 half pint jars)4 1/2 pounds apples (about 15 medium)
4 cups apple cider or apple juice
2 cups sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
Press apple mixture through a food mill and return 9 1/2 cups of mixture to the pot. (I didn't have a food mill, so I just mashed the apples with a potato masher and let cook for a little longer to thicken).
Stir in sugar, lemon juice and spices. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and cook on low for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours stirring often. Ladle hot butter into sterilized jars and process in a canner.
I always find the recipes for canning easy to actually make, but the cooking time takes forever. With cooking the apple butter plus heating up the canner and processing, the whole thing took a few hours. However, the beauty of canning is that a few hours leads to an entire bounty of jars that will last ages and make great gifts.