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.

Cooking the Books: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Sister Pie, and The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie

This is a guest post from KatieRose McEneely, a fellow culinary experimenting friend from college. She is a fantastic artist who created the paper cuts of a cow, sheep, and pig that currently hang above our couch. Thanks for joining in the challenge, KatieRose! 

If you want to join the Cooking the Books challenge, see the details at the bottom of this post.


1. How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Mark Bittman 

Recipe: Caramelized Squash with vinegar

  • Butternut squash, cubed
  • sugar
  • balsamic vinegar
  • onion, minced
  • garlic (omitted)
  • salt and pepper
  • rosemary, fresh and minced

I made the balsamic and rosemary variation–the original recipe uses sherry vinegar and chili powder. I didn’t take a photo, but it looks like cubed squash in a dark sauce, so.

Why I tried it: I had all of the ingredients and the cooking method was unfamiliar to me (it’s Vietnamese in origin). Plus, I thought I’d have a fighting chance of more than one member of the household giving it a taste.

It is technically not a one-pot meal, so I served it with a green salad and risotto, per Bittman’s recommendation.

Result: Real talk: would never make this again. The first step consists of making caramel, then adding vinegar and water to dissolve the caramel (and perfume your kitchen with the scent of hot vinegar, which was met with protests from other members of the household). Then, add the onion and cook until softened; add cubed squash, cover and steam for three minutes, then cook uncovered until squash is tender. Finish with the spices and cook a bit longer, until the sauce thickens.

I really liked the texture of the squash–I usually default to roasting it–but the flavor was much too sweet, and the rosemary was not discernable, despite adding a full tablespoon. Also, I question the nutritional value of a vegetable dish that contains more sugar than the following recipe, which is a dessert.

 

2.  Sister Pie: The Recipes & Stories of a Big-hearted Bakery in Detroit, Lisa Ludwinski

Recipe: Coconut Sweet Potato Pie

Why I tried it: I love pie (and I’m a huge fan of the Sister Pie cookbook), but I generally don’t enjoy custard or squash pies, possibly because I am lactose intolerant. This recipe has a very small amount of dairy, and uses full-fat coconut milk for the bulk of the liquid.

The recipe is available in full in many places, but here’s a link to it on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Result: Well, I’m converted. The pie is delicious; a faint coconut flavor, a smooth texture accented by the toasted unsweetened coconut garnish, and it’s not milky at all. It also baked in the time given in the recipe, but I attribute that less to the recipe and more to the fact that I finally bought an oven thermometer.

 

3. The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie, Paula Haney

I’ll note that I did make an additional new-to-me recipe on Jan. 30; it was Hoosier Mama’s apple pie, from the eponymous cookbook, which I also own. (If you like pecan pie, her recipe is superlative.)

Look, I’ve made a lot of apple pies in my time, and this was the taskiest of them all (and the first to omit cinnamon!). Never have I pre-cooked the drained liquid from the apples, let it cool, chilled it further, and then incorporated it to the rest of the pie filling. I’ve eaten this recipe before, because it’s delicious, and the result was great.

I’m of two minds: I make pie because I have things lying around that can go into a crust, and most of the time I’m winging it. But the final product here is very consistent, and my dad really likes it. It might be a game-time decision (and on the plus side, it baked more quickly than my usual method, which involves piling apples into a shell and baking until the filling reaches the set temperature for jam).

All told: this was fun! My sister and I have an agreement to try at least two new recipes per month, so it was a good jump-start. I’m fortunate in that my cookbook selection is small and I’m pretty good about using them, but I’m a librarian, so I have a lot of access to new titles without committing to a purchase.

Thanks for the invite!

Cheers,

KatieRose


Join us!

If you want to join us in the Cooking the Books challenge, send your posts to cagrimmett@gmail.com! I’ll guest post them here on Cook Like Chuck. Here are some guidelines:

  • Send me a decent photo of the book to use as the featured image
  • Send me photos of the meal you cooked
  • Write a little bit about the book, why you chose it, and how the meal turned out
  • Send me a photo of the recipe

Let’s dust off those cookbooks and put them to use this year.

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!

Apple Butter

Amanda and I love apple picking. We go out in our flannel shirts, pick apples, eat cider donuts, sip hot apple cider, then come home and make apple butter and bake apple pies. It makes for a wonderful weekend.

This year we picked Macoun (cross between the McIntosh and Jersey Black) and Empire (cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious) apples.

Macoun apple at Wilkins FarmApple Picking

A half-bushel of apples (pictured above) is enough for two pies, two batches of apple butter, and a few apples left over to eat.

We start making the apple butter around 7pm and let it cook in a crock pot overnight. The house smells amazing when you wake up in the morning. After just a few more minutes of work, you are ready to slather it on toast.

Here is our recipe:

Handwritten apple butter recipe

Apple Butter

  • 5-6 lbs of peeled, cored, and finely chopped apples
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/16 teaspoon cloves (4 whole cloves ground in a spice grinder)
  • 1 pack of gelatin powder

Instructions

  • Peel, core, and finely chop the apples. After rough chopping them, then pulse them in a food processor. You should end up with around 5.5 lbs. Use a kitchen scale.
  • Grind up any whole spices you are using.
  • Combine all ingredients in a crock pot, mix well, cover, and cook on high for an hour.
  • Turn the crock pot down to low after the hour is over, stir the mixture, put the cover back on, and go to bed.
  • If you get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, stumble over to the kitchen and stir the simmering apples.
  • When you wake up 8-9 hours later, the house should smell amazing. Don’t sleep in too much; the apple butter only takes 11-12 hours of cooking time. Uncover the apple butter (which should look dark brown now), stir, and let cook uncovered for another hour to thicken up.
  • After you’ve cooked off the excess liquid, sprinkle the gelatin packet, and blend until smooth with a hand blender (they are cheaper than you think.) If you don’t have one, whisking will work fine, too. Don’t try pouring this all into a regular blender; the heat will cause it to paint your ceiling and walls as soon as you turn it on.
  • While the apple butter is still hot, spoon it into sterilized glass jars and screw the lids on. They should seal themselves within a few hours as the contents cools down.
  • The unopened jars should keep for months, but once opened they should be refrigerated.