The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.
It's that time of the month again for the Daring Cook's Challenge. I missed out on the Daring Baker's challenge in August, but was more than a little excited to try this month's cooks challenge!
You see, we were trying out preserving and one of the recipes that we were presented with was for apple butter! If you've never had apple butter you HAVE to give it a try and it's one of my absolute favorite types of preserves (it goes great on nut butter sandwiches, on toast, bagels with cream cheese, English muffins, etc).
However, instead of using apples (which I didn't have many of) I used pears as the main fruit!
Reduced Sugar Apple Butter
Apples 4lbs* (1.8 kg) Cut into eights, stem and blossome end removed
Apple Cider 1 Cup (240 ml) Optional: Water or Juice
Sucralose/Splenda 1/2 Cup (120 ml) Optional: Honey, Agave or Sugar - to taste
Cinnamon, Ground 1 Tbl (15 ml)
Allspice, Ground 1/2 tsp (3 ml)
Cloves, Ground 1/4 tsp (2 ml)
1. Wash apples well and remove stems. Cut apples into quarters or eighths and remove cores.
2. Combine unpeeled apples and cider in 8-quart (about 7 ½ litre) saucepan. Cook slowly and stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook until apples are very soft (falling apart).
3. Position a food mill or strainer securely over a large bowl. Press cooked apples with cider through the food mill or strainer to make a pulp. Be sure to collect all the pulp that comes through the food mill or strainer; for example, scrape any pulp clinging under the food mill into the bowl.
4. Combine pulp with Sucralose and spices in an 8-quart (about 7 ½ litre) saucepan. Simmer over low heat, stirring frequently.
5. To test for doneness, spoon a small quantity onto a clean plate; when the butter mounds on the plate without liquid separating around the edge of the butter, it is ready for processing. Another way to test for doneness is to remove a spoonful of the cooked butter on a spoon and hold it away from steam for 2 minutes. It is done if the butter remains mounded on the spoon.
6. Pour contents into desired storage container or multiple containers. I stored my apple butter in 1-cup (250ml) plastic containers with screw on tops. Refrigerate up to 2 weeks, freeze up to a year, and home canning is good for a year.
* The Finished Apple Butter:
Apple Butter is often used as a spread. However, apple butter can also be used as a condiment (pork chops or in marinades) or as an ingredient to an apple quick bread.
On a bagel
I used a freezer bag where I expelled as much air as possible and minimized the gaps in the bag. Freezer bags work well for storage since they can lay flatter in the freezer than containers.
With a container, you need to ensure you have “headspace”. Headspace is the gap between the food (or liquid level) and the top of the container. Typical, headspace when freezing foods is 1/2 “ (1.27 cm) for straight sided containers. As mentioned previously, water expands when freezing. The headspace allows room for expansion.
Thawing: The best method (Food Safety) is to thaw in the refrigerator for a day.
Cold water, 70ºF (21ºC) or lower, can be used for as quicker way to defrost. The frozen food is submerged under running water. An alternative to running water is to change the water every 30 minutes. If you need an even faster method to defrost and you plan to cook the food immediately, the microwave is another method (of last resort).
The recipes above are straight from The Daring Kitchen post for this month's challenge (minus notes from the host of this month's challenge). If you would like to check out what the others have done and the recipes please go to The Daring Kitchen website!
I made a few changes to the recipe to make it work for me. First of all, as stated above I used pears mostly and added in 2 green apples to make up the rest. I used half a cup of cider instead of a whole and added in a half cup of water.
Also real sugar was used and only 1 tablespoon of it. More than that and it would have been much too sweet as the pears were ripe and I probably didn't even need to use any sugar because of it!
In the notes that were provided it says that we don't need to peel the apples. I suggest that you do peel them. Mashing them through the strainer with the peel on, is a pain that doesn't need to be dealt with. You can always peel them in big sections and just pull them out when the time comes to mash your fruit.
Using a stick blender will make the fruit butter very smooth, but it's not necessary if you don't have one. It will come out the consistency of apple sauce before you cook it down and the liquid evaporates. Making sure to keep the temperature fairly low ( medium low is good ) so it just simmers seems to be perfect heat. It will take quiet sometime to reach the right consistency (juice shouldn't separate from the fruit and it should be a darker brown in color), but is totally worth it!
When the apple butter is done, try some on a bit of toasted bread before you store it in the freezer. Warm apple butter on toast is wonderful. I made some whole wheat English muffins, using a recipe I found over at life, in recipes.
The pear apple butter turned out so good that even the little one liked it! The hubby enjoyed it and seemed pleasantly surprised with how well it turned out, and I was thrilled with a new and great way to make my own preserves with some of my favorite fruits that can be made and frozen easily.