Autumn Applesauce & Apple Butter

We try to go apple-picking every year.  I picture a chilly crispness to the air, bundled in a cozy sweater, the scent of a crackling fire wafting around us, warm apple cider spiked with bourbon, and we five laughing and teasing as we pluck ripe red apples from the trees, discussing the various ways we'll use these delicious apples.  We will make apple pie, apple muffins, Apple Spice Hand Pies with Cinnamon Cream, applesauce, apple butter, apple cider, apple beer, and a lovely apple and parsnip mash.

Here's what really happens...  I insist we go apple picking even though 2 of the 5 of us (who shall remain nameless but both are male) don't want to go at all due to 1) having to spend time with the family (our son) and 2) there's sure to be many bees around and someone is terrified of bees (husband).  We all pile in the SUV and head out to the orchard.

Just as we arrive, it starts to sprinkle.  Fantastic.  And it went from 80° and sunny to chilly and damp.  Then one of our daughters decided to pick that day and that time to declare her hatred for her sister simply because we only had one apple picking stick and had to share.  I mean, seriously.  Sharing blows.

She was grumpy and whiny and difficult while the rest of us were trying to make the best of it.  It did stop spitting rain on us.  The temperature increased to a comfortable 75°.  Our son took over the camera and was enjoying himself, at least as much as a 16 year old man-boy with his family can.

The lady who owns and runs the orchard goes on the honor system if she's not there. She leaves a bucket out on an old patio table near the orchard entrance and trusts you to pay for what you take. She leaves plastic bags and apple pickers to use at your leisure. And she almost always has some cookies sitting out for anyone to have a snack after apple-picking.

She wasn't there when we first arrived, so we went on our merry way picking apples. Later she came out to greet us and see if we needed any help finding the good ones. Her enormous orange tabby was faithfully following behind her. When I mentioned that our youngest kid had her grumpy pants on, she told her that the best way to get rid of the grumpies is to jump up and down as hard as you can. So Ms. Grumpy jumped up and down, giggling.

This kind lady told me a story of her childhood.  When she was a little girl, she used to love to go to a neighbor "grandma's" property.  She had an apple orchard and always had cookies for her to munch on. She loved picking the apples and feeding them to the horses so much that when she got older, she bought an orchard and horses and became that "grandma."  And she makes sure to always have cookies on hand for the little ones.

Adjust the quantities of sugar and spices to suit your tastes.  Put the sauce and butter into mason jars and freeze for later use.  The applesauce is particularly delicious while still warm, on it's own or spooned over vanilla bean ice cream.

20 servings

20 apples, cored and chunked
2 c. water or apple juice
4 T. cinnamon
2 c. brown sugar

Mix all ingredients in a dutch oven or slow-cooker.  Cook over medium-low heat in dutch oven until the apples are softened, 3-6 hours.  In slow-cooker, cook on low for 6 hours or so.  Puree to desired consistency using a blender or immersion blender.  For a chunkier applesauce, puree half and mix together.

Apple Butter
20 servings

20 apples, cored and chunked
2-1/2 c. brown sugar
1 T. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. ground cloves

Mix all ingredients in a dutch oven or slow-cooker.  Cook over medium-low heat in dutch oven until the apples are softened and the mixture is a dark brown.  In a slow-cooker, cook on low for 9-11 hours or until dark brown.  Puree in food processor, blender, or using immersion blender.

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