I lived in Virginia for four years and loved it. I certainly missed my Texas bbq but developed an appreciation for the Carolina style. Anyways, there I discovered apple butter and haven't stopped eating it since. Never heard of anyone trying to incorporate smoke flavor into the apple butter though. Living in an apartment in the middle of Dallas, I don't really have the option of hanging a big copper kettle over an open fire all day with apples out of my own orchard. I thought I would combine two things whose mantra is "low and slow" - smoking and making apple butter - just to see what happened.
I began with two pounds of red delicious apples and put about 3 or 4 ounces of applewood chips in the box, and smoked the apples at 225 for 1 hour.
Did I mention that it was pouring down rain and about 50 degrees in Dallas??
After an hour, the apples looked very happy. Note the beautiful caramel color and the smoky sweet smell...
I had to force myself not to eat that apple flesh with a spoon right then and there.
Note that at this point, if you want a less smoky product, you can core the apples and scoop out the fruit into your stovepot to cook down into apple butter. I simply cored and quartered the apples, leaving the skins on as the fruit cooked down. The peels will impart more smoke flavor as you leave them on. I put all the cored and quartered apples into the stovepot, filling it up about half apple cider and half water, so that the water was just fixing to make those apples float. I may have also added a dash of bourbon as I poured myself a glass to drink...
As you can see, my pot was filled to capacity. As it came to a boil, I heard the hiss of water hitting the burner, and transferred to a large pot. I let it boil for a couple of minutes, not a rolling boil or anything, and then turned to simmer and put the lid on (crack the lid for steam to get out).
The water is boiling up through the apples but not going crazy - this is where I turned to simmer. Also threw in a cinnamon stick.
About 6 hours into the simmer - I let it go for about 12 total. i know that sounds like alot but just let it go while you sleep. you don't really need to stir it if you keep the heat very low.
Now I know what you're thinking this looks like - but it's not that. This is the apples in a colander and i am muddling them through with a spatula in order to get the apple butter texture and to remove the skins. I used a slotted spoon and put the apples in the colander, then transferred the remaining liquid to a separate bowl, and then muddled the fruit. It took a bit of time, but I haven't found a food mill I can afford yet...
Anyways, now you have the raw apple butter, and if it's too thick just add you back in some of your cider that was left over in the pot after you removed the fruit. If it's too thin, you're going to simmer it some more anyways so don't be discouraged. Now it is ready for spices and sugar and whatever else you're going to put in there. The smoky flavor in the raw butter was pretty strong, so I wanted to balance it out with some sweetness. I added a cup of brown sugar, about a quarter cup of refined sugar, and a tablespoon or two of molasses. I also added a dash each of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, ground clove, and cardamom. Stirred it up, and the taste test was pretty promising I must tell you. Let it simmer about 2 more hours or so, cooked up some biscuits and bacon and sat down for the real test.
I knew I had the texture I wanted when the butter held its shape a bit after stirring.
Breakfast is served. When eaten on the biscuit, the apple butter's depth from the smoky sweet flavor really shone. It was not too smoky, and not too sweet, but wonderfully complex and aromatic. What a delicious addition to apple butter, the nice applewood smoky flavor. The smokiness registers in some of your taste buds that the sweetness does not and creates a really full, delicious taste, like there is some smoked meat on the biscuit as well. Obviously, traditional apple butter is delicious. The folks who seem to make it best tend to be reluctant to share their methods, and understandably so! But using smoked apples creates a new, interesting, and for smoke lovers, a delicious spin on an old favorite. May I also add, my apartment has NEVER smelled so good as when this stuff was simmering away.
Thanks for reading,