We had seen the table (and an accompanying sign that said "Free Apples") a few other times, but there had never been any available bounty. This time, however, the table was full of apples. These apples were the kind that you don't see at the grocery store; they had bumps and bruises and lopsided parts. Nevertheless we stuffed our pockets full and snagged as many as we could hold in our hands and headed home.
It didn't take me long to know what I would do with my new found bounty. I was talking about it before we even reached our front porch. I would make apple butter, loaded with spices and sugar and just delicious. By 2:00 the next day, I had two beautiful jars of apple butter to put away in the pantry, and one container in the refrigerator to eat immediately.
This recipe was developed from several others; I primarily went off of my mother's pear butter recipe which I have made in the past, but I also referred to Elyse's recipe at Simply Recipes and some posts on the web. I read several posts on a message board about cooking apple butter in the oven (after the initial 20 minute cooking). This resulted in a gorgeously dark and rich apple butter.
By the way, you can use several different kinds of apples, particularly those that you would use for a pie, crisp or baking. Stay away from Golden or Red Delicious.
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
zest and juice of one lemon
1-3 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
Place the apples, vinegar, water, lemon juice and zest in a large oven-proof pot. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour the cooked apples into a blender or food processor and blend until well pureed.
Store in the refrigerator, or seal in canning jars to store for months (or years) in your pantry, give away for Christmas gifts, etc. If you're not familiar with canning process, The Pioneer Woman gives step-by-step instructions here.
*You might want to go easy on the sugar to begin; you can always add sugar as you go.
Oh, and "thank you" to our kind neighbors, for sharing your apples.