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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Wake up to the fabulous smell of holiday treats

We woke up this morning to the smell of spices coming from the kitchen crock pot. This got me thinking that some of you may enjoy what I think is a different treat to add to that plate of cookies. First, some history.

When my son was little we always had a hard time trying to decide what gift he could give to teachers, aunts, uncles and cousins that would not break our bank. Inevitably we turned to ornaments and enjoyed picking them out, especially when he got old enough to help choose the ornaments. However, a few years later, finding ornaments that were different became a challenge and of course it was predictable. By then he was old enough to help with baking so plates of homemade Christmas cookies was the gift for that year. Not exactly an original idea, but everyone was thrilled with them! Somehow we have now become the Christmas cookie suppliers for the whole family. Not a job I signed up for but there it is and even though all the family knows what the gift from my son will be, we dare not change it. What to do? Add something other than cookies to the mix.

Now, the delicious smell of spices. Over the years we have added homemade black raspberry jelly or apple sauce to the plate of cookies. Then I started making apple butter! This was a hit like no other. Since my family is originally from Pa. apple butter was always in the fridge until we moved to NY, so this is something they really enjoy. It's not hard and the list of ingredients is short. The toughest work is cleaning the apples when you make your apple sauce. Of course you could use store bought apple sauce but it won't taste as good and will add to the cost. You need about 9 quarts to start and apple sauce is just apples, sugar, cinnamon (optional) and a little water in the bottom of a big pot. Apple butter does have a fairly long cooking time but the aroma that fills the house is worth it.

Here's what you'll need
  1. A crock pot
  2. 9 quarts apple sauce
  3. 3 cups sugar
  4. 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  5. 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  6. 1/2 teaspoon all spice
  7. canning jars and lids
Fill the crock pot with apple sauce (you will have some left), add all of the ingredients except 1 cup of sugar. Set your crock pot on medium, cover loosely and let it go until it is reduced by about half. The time this takes depends on your crock pot, mine has been on for about 16hrs and is not quite the consistency that I want yet. When the first batch of apple sauce is reduced, add the remaining sauce and the last cup of sugar and continue cooking until you have the thickness and color that you want. I cook mine for 1 1/2 - 2 days but we like ours thick and dark in color. Of course you can increase or decrease the sugar and spices to meet your taste buds. Some recipes will suggest using a drink mixer wand to give a smooth consistency but I don't bother with that. When your apple butter is done, follow your canning procedure. Chances are this isn't your first time canning but if it is search the internet for instructions.

We hope that you enjoy this recipe and that your family will also. Be careful though, my sister in law actually told me I could not start this and then decide not to make it anymore!

Happy Holidays!

Do you have a favorite holiday treat? We'd love it if you'd share. Also, if you try this apple butter recipe, please tell us how you like it. Did you alter the recipe?

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