Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Happy #3 - Apple Butter and Dessert Sauces

 I really shouldn't give away all my secrets. The people I gave these little gifts to today are totally going to feel cheated when they realize how easy they are to make...

First up, Apple Butter. This was actually my second batch and I won't lie, it wasn't as good as the first. This goes to show how flexible you need to be for this recipe. I did mine in the crock pot, no mess, no burning, crazy easy.

The hardest part of this recipe is figuring out the apples. I try to use three different types to get a better flavor, but you also have to understand that even the same type of apples will have different levels of sweetness at different times. The first batch I made was made mostly from some awesome Fuji apples along with about three or four honeycrisp and a handful of red delicious that were hanging out in my fridge and needed to be used up. This was during peak apple season and they were fabulously sweet and crunchy and yum. The apple butter was declared perfect tasting by my in-laws, who should know considering they are experts.

The second batch I decided to do the same routine, but found the apples a little hard to locate. Apparently peak apple season is short or I just had exceptionally bad timing at Kroger, but they had no Fuji apples out in the bin. I did grab a couple of honeycrisp, a couple of ambrosia, and found the very last 5lb bag of Fuji in with the bags of red delicious. Unfortunately, as I started chopping and sampling I quickly realized that none of these apples were anywhere near as sweet and tasty as the previous batch. I ended up increasing the sweetner but the butter still turned out not quite sweet enough for me. I should have added more honey. You just never know, it depends your apples. Based on that, here's the best I can do for a recipe.

5-6lbs apples (different kinds)
1/3- 1 1/2 cups honey (depending on sweetness of apples, you can taste it toward the end and add more if necessary)
1 Tbsp ground cinamon
2 tsp allspice
optional - nutmeg and cloves can also be added, I think I used nutmeg in the second batch

Peel, core and roughly chop apples into your slow cooker until full. For my 5 quart cooker this took about 5 1/2 - 6lbs of apples. Smaller cookers will require less. Add all other ingredients, stir as best you can. Cook on high for 1 hour then turn to low for 9-11 hours. Stir occasionally (or not, whatever) Remove lid and cook for an additional 1-2 hours to thicken. Stir with a whisk periodically to break up the remaining bits. For a smooth butter, process in a blender or food processor in batches. I canned mine in half pint jelly jars (sterilized and hot on the counter) to seal. It's fine in the cabinet but refrigerate after opening.

I made labels, printed out a couple of recipes I found online that used apple butter (in case people didn't want to eat it like jam on toast or biscuits) and attached with a ribbon.

I'll be honest, part of this project was simply to stay away from baking things I'd want to scarf that aren't on my low sugar pregnancy diet. But at the last minute I tempted myself with hot fudge and a caramel sauce. I did lick the spoon right before I dumped it in the sink with the hot fudge. That was it. I got the rest canned before I could stick my face in it.  Here is the link to the original caramel sauce recipe that I ended up using (the one I had planned to use involved the mixer and I didn't feel like digging it out) and the hot fudge sauce which was super easy. I made of few adjustments, of course, so here are the final versions I used. However, the caramel sauce link is very very important because she makes some important points about why you should use a big, heavy bottomed pot and how to adjust for other types of pans and the fact that melting sugar is hotter than boiling water so be careful and don't do this with a toddler under foot!

Caramel Sauce

2 cups sugar (I used an organic granulated cane sugar, but white or brown works fine)
12 Tbsp butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla

Get all ingredients together, ready to use and close to the stove. The process moves fast and the sauce will burn. Have hot pads close by too. Heat on medium high heat in a 3 qt saucepan. You need a big pan because the sauce will bubble up when add colder ingredients. As the sugar begins to melt stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. As soon as the sugar comes to a boil stop stirring. You can swirl the pan, but don't stir! As soon as all the sugar melts and is a dark amber color add butter to the pan and whisk until butter has melted. This is one of those times the mixture will bubble up on you. The longer the handle on the whisk, the better. Once the butter melts take the pan off the heat. Slowly add cram to the pan and whisk until smooth. Add in vanilla and stir in. Let it cool in the pan for a few minutes then pour into glass jar and let cool to room temperature. Store in refrigerator. Heat before serving. This made three 1/2 pint jars (3 cups) of sauce.

Hot Fudge Sauce
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar (I used the cane sugar again, but white or brown is fine)
1/2 cup cocoa
1 stick butter
2 tsp vanilla

In medium saucepan, stir together everything except the vanilla. Cook over medium heat until everything is melty and combined. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. If you're going to use it soon, let it cool then store in an air-tight container and refrigerate. If you're going to can it, pour into jars hot and put the lids on so it'll seal. Even sealed, store in the fridge.

I didn't add any kind of tag to these jars, just the labels and ribbon. If you can't figure out how to eat dessert sauces, you probably don't need any. :)

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