Instant Pot Apple Butter

Amanda and I started a tradition the first Autumn after we got married: Go apple picking, make apple pies, and make apple butter. We look forward to it every year.

We started out making apple butter in a crock pot, but last year I switched to making it in an Instant Pot.

Why?

  • The crockpot took about 12 hours to cook down the apples, which limited us to starting it early in the morning or late at night and locked us into canning it 12 hours later. Since prep takes about an hour and canning (sanitizing, filling, and boiling) takes about an hour, this cramped our style.
  • The Instant Pot cooks down the apples in about an hour, which means we can make two batches from start to finish in one day. Or we can do a single batch in an afternoon without much stress.
  • The Instant Pot breaks down the apple skins and large chunks much better than the crock pot did, so we don’t have to peel them. We just wash, core, and roughly chop. The extra pectin from the skins also means we don’t need to add gelatin.

My recipe is still pretty close to the original crock pot recipe. Last year I used half brown sugar and half molasses. This year I used honey and molasses, which I’ll probably stick with.

Ingredients

  • 5.5 lbs apples
  • 2 cups honey
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg (I prefer to grate my own with a micrograter)
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 cup apple cider

Instructions

  1. Wash the apple and dry them with a towel. You want those peels shiny, not dull.
  2. Remove the cores and roughly chop the apples. Large chunks are fine, the pressure will break them down easily.
  3. Mix all of the ingredients together in the Instant Pot.
  4. Seal and cook on high pressure for 45 minutes. Turn off the “Keep Warm” setting.
  5. Let the steam release naturally. If you are short on time, quick releasing it is fine.
  6. Remove the lid and purée the cooked apples with a hand blender. If you don’t have a hand blender, a regular blender is fine, but remember that the apples are hot, so work in small batches and make sure the steam can escape the blender. You don’t want a Jackson Pollack on your ceiling.
  7. If your apples have too much liquid, put the apples back in the Instant Pot and turn on the Sauté setting (medium) to cook them down a little more until they reach your desired consistency. We prefer it pretty thick. I put a lid from one of my other pans over the pot to make sure it doesn’t splatter while it is cooking down.

If you are going to give it out to family and friends, I highly recommend you can and process it.

One batch makes approximately 5 pint jars/10 half-pint jars.

What to do with Fresh Peaches

Peach season is here in the northeast! Amanda and I went peach picking at Wilkins Fruit and Fir farm in Yorktown Heights last weekend, just as some of the trees were ripening. They should be in full-swing now. 🍑

If you went peach picking over Labor Day weekend, have plans to go this week, or just have a bunch of peaches from the store to use, here is what we did with them:

1. Peach hand pies

We used this recipe from Serious Eats as the base and subbed in peaches for the nectarines.

2. Peach Bourbon

When I was in Charleston a few weeks ago, I drank some peach bourbon in an Old Fashioned. It held up well, so I thought it would be fun to make some at home.

I know from experience that infusing liquor with dried fruit is better than fresh fruit, which gives off liquid and dilutes the final product. I diced up two peaches, put them on the dehydrator overnight, and then tossed the dried pieces in a mason jar with around 800ml of Old Grand-Dad Bonded for a week.

BONUS: Cook the bourbony peach pieces down into a syrup with some sugar and water for a wonderful ice cream topping or the sugar component in your Peach Old Fashioned. 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, and the boozy dried peaches. Bring to a simmer and stir for 3 minutes, then strain.

3. Peach, Burrata, Basil, and Balsamic salad

I was mindlessly surfing Instagram Stories one morning last week and came across a great idea from Black Sparrow Press: Peach, burrata, basil, and balsamic. We love burrata and had basil on-hand, so I caramelized some peaches in cast-iron and put together a salad. It was so good we made it a second time this weekend for breakfast. The second iteration had fresh mint and honey on it, too.

Picking Apples and Peaches 🍎🍑

Amanda and I drove up to Wilkins Fruit & Fir Farm over Labor Day Weekend to go apple picking. It is a tradition we started the year we got married. Sometimes the weather is beautiful and warm, sometimes it is rainy and cold, sometimes we have friends with us, and other times it is just us. But we always go. It is a cute little farm and they always have fresh apple cider doughnuts to buy in their bakery. 🍩

This year it was just us and the weather was gorgeous. It was one of the first cool days of the season and the sun was shining. We ended up picking two pecks of apples, a mix of Gala and McIntosh.

Also, since we went earlier than normal this year, peaches were still in season! We picked a few pounds of those, too.

How we used our Harvest

Peaches 🍑

Amanda made a peach galette and peach hand pies, then we canned the rest so that we can make another galette later this year. In the spirit of using as much as possible, I took the water we boiled the peaches in to remove the skin and used it to make a peach and raspberry tea. And, of course, we ate at least half a dozen peaches while prepping them.

Apples 🍎

First and foremost, we made and canned two batches of apple butter. We ate about a dozen apples between the two of us over the next week, then we took what was left and made canned apple pie filling. Amanda took one peck to work to sell at the coworking/meeting space she manages.

We might cruise up there again later this fall to buy some cider to ferment here at home with champagne yeast.

We can’t wait to go again next year!

What to Put on Grilled Peaches

Mexican peaches are starting to pop up in stores around the US and summer is coming, so now is a good time for a simple, delicious, peach-based dessert recipe: Grilled Peaches.

Grilled peaches are an incredibly simple affair:

  1. Cut the peaches in half, dust with a sugar and spice combination, and grill until carmelized.
  2. Top with a dairy

This is best done outside while sipping some cheap beer to beat the heat, but if you are like us and live in an apartment, using a grill pan works, too.

To get your ideas flowing, here are 13 combinations of thing you can put on grilled peaches:

  • Brown sugar, cinnamon, and marscapone cheese
  • Honey, balsamic vinegar, and goat cheese
  • Skip the sugar, grill the peaches with olive oil, and top with fresh basil and mozzarella
  • Demerara, balsamic vinegar, and greek yogurt whipped with vanilla
  • Honey, fresh mint, and brie
  • Vanilla sugar, roasted and chopped walnuts, and coconut cream
  • Molasses, balsamic vinegar, black pepper, and thinly sliced white cheddar
  • Honey, ground cardamom, and heavy cream whipped with brandy
  • Grill plain, top with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream
  • Brown sugar, cinnamon, and brown butter
  • Skip the sugar, dust with nutmeg and allspice, and serve with thinned out cream cheese
  • Maple syrup, chopped pecans, and your favorite flavor of ice cream
  • Honey, thyme, lemon juice, and yogurt

Blackberry, Honey, and Vinegar Shrub

Amanda and I were in Ohio over Christmas and we spent one evening visiting our friends Tyler Machovina and Erin Carlson. They had us over for dinner, and upon arriving Erin greeted us with a fantastic selection of vinegar shrubs.

A shrub is a beverage made from fruit, some sort of acid, and a sugar. A vinegar shrub uses vinegar as the acidic component. They were popular in colonial America as a means of preserving fruit without refrigeration. The vinegar breaks down the fruit and the sugar sweetens everything up a bit. The result is a tangy, sweet, complex mixture that is very refreshing when mixed with soda water.

Erin had four different shrubs made with different fruits, herbs, flowers, and spices. I decided after one sip that I had to make some of my own.

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Here we are at Erin and Tyler’s house playing Carcassonne, remnant of a shrub to my right.

When we went home a week later, I got to work. I did some research on shrub components and compared them with my notes from Erin. Then, I picked up some blackberries from the store, made sure I had enough Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar on-hand, and heated up the local honey that had crystalized in my cabinet.

I mixed everything up and put it in the fridge for a few weeks. I tasted it first at the end of January, then sealed it back up for all of February (Whole 30 month), and forgot about it until the middle of March.

When I tasted it a few days ago, the flavors had come together swimmingly: The vinegar mellowed out, the blackberries had totally broken down, and the honey smoothed everything out. Here’s the recipe I used:

Blackberry, Honey, and Vinegar Shrub

  • 1 cup whole blackberries, washed
  • 1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar (I use Bragg’s)
  • 1/2 cup honey, heated up so that it mixes into the vinegar better

Pour everything together into a quart mason jar. Put the lid on and shake it up. Put it in the fridge for at least a month, shaking it again when you remember it is there.

To serve: Mix the shrub 50/50 with club soda or sparkling water. Make sure to filter the shrub through a strainer. Add ice and stir. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig.

If you want to make it boozy, this would mix well with rum: 2oz rum to 1oz shrub.

Variations

I’m eager to try variations as soon as the weather gets warm again. Here is what’s on my short list:

  • Trying different sugars: Turbinado, brown sugar, molasses, etc.
  • Different fruits: Peaches, raspberries, apricots, rhubarb, orange peels, cherries, plums, strawberries, limes, and lemons. I’m going to pick things that are in season to maximize flavor.
  • Different vinegars: Balsamic, red wine, and rice vinegars.
  • Herbs and spices: Lavender, mint, juniper, vanilla, ginger, and rose hips.

Michael Dietsch has two different methods for making shrubs over at Serious Eats:

  1. Heating the sugar and fruit on the stove before adding the vinegar.
  2. A two-step cold method

Check out his methods over at Serious Eats. I’ll probably give them both a try, too.

If you want a faster way of breaking down the fruit and infusing the flavors without evaporating out the vinegar, you could try a sous vide infusion. I’ll probably give this a try, too, and report back.

 

Cutting Up Watermelon

Summer is watermelon time. Since cutting up watermelons can be a pain if you don’t know what you are doing, here is how to do it:

I just tried this method and went from having a whole watermelon to cleaning the juice off the countertop in under 5 minutes.

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I prefer gorging myself with watermelon for breakfast and dessert, but if you want something different, try adding feta, mint, lemon zest, and olive oil for a fantastic salad.