This past week, I went to visit my grandmother who lives in Chester County, PA. I love visiting my grandmother in the fall; she has apple trees, pear trees, berry bushes, rows of flowers and a huge plot just for vegetables, and they’re all in bloom in this season.
I lived with her for a couple years when I was a kid, and I used to help her pick flowers for the table and veggies for dinner. I loved using the fruit picker to pick apples from the top of the tree, and then watching my grandmother canning and preserving them. She made apple butter, too, from the cooked apples, adding cinnamon and brown sugar and roasting it for 8 hours. It’s so delicious on biscuits, scones, and waffles that my whole family, her neighbors, and even some friends of friends ask for a jar each fall.
My favorite part as a kid was using an old wooden pestle to mash the cooked apples through the ricer. My grandmother has owned those kitchen tools since she was 19, when she had her first child, my mother. She couldn’t afford to buy apple sauce from the store, so she collected apples from family members who had trees and then made apple sauce at home. Today, she has plenty of her own trees and a scrumptious tradition that I can’t wait to pass on.
Portrait of my grandmother sitting in her kitchen reading a Menonite cook book from the 1920’s that has lost its hard cover
Total time: 6 hours
Makes about 10 8-oz containers
In my basket:
Two dozen apples
From the pantry:
Cinnamon, to taste
Dark brown sugar, to taste
- Wash and dry apples. Core and cut into slices.
- Place cut apples into large pot, cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer until soft, about 15-20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Once apples are finished cooking, let sit and drain for a few minutes. The more water drains, the thicker the apple mash will be.
- Pour apples into the ricer and, using a pestle, mash the apples so that the flesh runs out.
- Toss out the remaining skins, and pour the apple mash into a roast pan. Add brown sugar and cinnamon to taste.
- Cover the pan and roast in the oven for 5 hours, maybe longer if you have a full pan. The longer it roasts, the more caramelized and dark in color it will get.
- When it’s done roasting, pull out the pan and scoop into jars.
- Fill a large pot of warm water on the stove, then add each jar. Cover the tops of the jars by 2 inches of water. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Using tongs, remove the jars from the boiling water and sit aside to cool. Each jar of apple butter should last about a year.
Alice Kathryn Richardson is a new media photojournalist and creator of The Clean Food Club. She previously spent two years working on Deserts in the District, a series of short-form documentaries exploring food access and hunger in Washington, DC. She is committed to supporting local and sustainable food businesses by telling their stories with photo and video. Follow her on Twitter @AKR_Pictures.