Over the weekend I enjoyed the blue sky, sunshine, beautiful mountain air, delicious bites of hand-picked apples, and the fist clenching cries of a baby who missed his nap time.
So much for a peaceful outing lol.
Every year we take a trip up to the mountains to load up on fresh apples and pumpkins. We started the tradition back in 2005, when my girls were a little over 1 year old, and we’ve never missed a year since. This year, our lovely weekend getaway turned into a huge headache that spun out of control!
Last week, I talked about the importance of spending time with your family, and how it’s okay to skip nap time every once in while. Well, that plan totally backfired on me, and I spent the first hour of our apple trip trying to calm a very cranky, very tired, very upset baby.
For some reason, my little man wouldn’t doze off in the car like I expected. This resulted in screams and cries for about 10 minutes straight, until I crawled into the backseat (desperate times call for desperate measures) to try to soothe him and calm him down a bit. He was crying so hard, that he was sending himself into choking fits, and his face was dripping with tears, sweat, and slobber. My attempt at calming my baby failed miserably, and when we got to the apple orchard, we couldn’t have yanked him out of the car seat fast enough!
I’d like to say that it stopped there, but…it didn’t.
The screaming fit in the car turned into a screaming fit in line– which became too unbearable, and honestly, I started to become embarrassed. When you’re in public, and you have a screaming child, no one really sympathizes with you. Instead, you get the “get that kid the hell outta here” look, which never makes a mama feel good. Ever.
Lucky for me, we had Grandma the hero follow us to the orchard, and she insisted on whisking him away to the comfort of her car.
So, without the boy, my husband, myself, and our daughters walked up and down the isles, picking the very best and tastiest apples we could find. It reminded me how simple (and hands free) our life was before the little guy. Yet, even though it was nice not to have a baby screaming in my face, I wished he was there sharing the moment. I guess it was for the best though, because our girls got the spotlight for a change and we were able to take some fun pictures and enjoy each others company. When we got back to the car, the baby was crashed out on Grandma, so it was a victory at last!
From that point on the afternoon improved immensely. Mr. Hyde left us permanently, and we once again were happy to be with our smiling, happy, and super curious little guy. At the pumpkin patch, his eyes were as big as quarters, as he blessed each pumpkin with a tap of his palm. I took dozens of pictures, trying to keep up with him (this kid is fast!) until I got my gold- a frame worthy picture to remember always.
So, with the very hectic, very exhausting weekend behind me, I decided to take it upon myself to use my mountain of apples to make some home made apple butter. Yesterday, the house was filled with the aroma of cinnamon, apples, and brown sugar, which made the craziness all worth it!
Last year, I went with the stove top method. It was delicious, but my feet were killing me by the end of the day from standing over the pot for frequent stirring. So, this year I decided to go with the slow cooker method- it’s more time but less work, with a much bigger payoff!
I spent yesterday morning researching the how-to’s, and after reading way too many articles, I took what I liked and jumped in head first.
I call this recipe The Best Slow Cooker Apple Butter for a reason, because I’ll always make apple butter this way from now on! It’s super easy, doesn’t take a lot of prep, and really uses the apples for all they’re worth.
The Best Slow Cooker Apple Butter
All you need is a whole lotta apples, some cinnamon, apple cider, brown sugar, and your slow cooker. You can make your own apple butter by following these simple steps:
1) Wash and cut your apples into slices: Previously, when I’ve made applesauce or apple butter, I’ve always peeled them. This time, after doing research, I decided to leave the peels on. One reason apple butter is so simple to make is because apples are high in pectin, which helps make your jams and jellies thick (whenever I process jam, I always use apples instead of buying fruit pectin). The peels are nutritious, and will be processed later so you won’t even know they’re there (plus not peeling them saves loads of time and work). Just make sure to get the seeds out, but leave as much of the core as possible (the pectin is very high in the center).
2) Toss ’em in your slow cooker and add 1/3 cup of apple cider: I was able to fit 9 large apples in my cooker, and I added about 1/3 cup of apple cider (also from the mountains!), to add extra flavor and prevent the apples from sticking.
3) Cook on high for 3 1/2 hours, then add more apples (and cinnamon!): Once my apples cooked down a bit, I added MORE apples! I was able to cram 3 more large apples into my slow cooker, which was really taking advantage of the space. I also added 1 tsp of cinnamon, and stirred it up, pressing the new apples towards the bottom so they would break down faster.
4) After 2 more hours, process your apples (in batches) in a food processor: This takes care of the peels, and gives you a really creamy sauce. At this point for me, my apples seemed like they were a touch past apple sauce, but not quite to the point of apple butter.
5) Return sauce to the slow cooker, add 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and cook for 2 (or more) hours: You can cook this for as long as you see fit- for me, after 2 hours I had reached the desired consistency. The longer you cook it, the deeper in color is gets, creating more of an apple “butter” texture (some people cook theirs overnight, but I wanted to do this in one day!). I only added 1/2 cup of brown sugar, because I didn’t want it to be too sweet, and the apple cider had already added a lot of flavor.
Congratulations, you just made the easiest apple butter ever!
This left me with 4 pints of apple butter, much better than my 2012 attempt. If you are canning your apple butter, add a touch of lemon or lime juice (the citric acid acts as a preservative) before you pour into jars. I went ahead and processed my apple butter, heating them in a hot water bath on the stove for about 10 minutes.
Have your children ever embarrassed you in public? Share in the comments below!