I happened upon a book called Food and Cooking in Victorian England by Andrea Broomfield. One of the first things I learned from this book was how the Industrial Revolution shaped Victorian England. Before the Industrial Revolution, most people worked from their homes to make goods to sell. They had their own gardens and raised animals to provide food for their families. When factories started supplying these same goods, the people had no choice but to move to cities and work in the factories. The populations of these cities boomed. Because homes were small and time and space was limited, this meant that people could no longer have gardens and keep animals for food. The food they ate had to be bought from others, instead of making it themselves. It only took a couple generations before people no longer knew how to do things like make cheese and butter.
That got me thinking. What kinds of skills am I lacking that to my grandparents and great-grandparents were parts of daily life? One thing that I knew for sure I had to learn was how to make and preserve my Nana’s Apple Butter. I’ve been eating this stuff all my life, and I’ve never met a better apple butter.
First Comes the Applesauce
We started with just over a half-bushel of apples. Some were Jonathan apples and the others we think are Granny Smith. Nana went to the Farmer’s Market and asked what would be a good cooking apple for apple butter. You want something that will make a tart applesauce.
Wash the apples, core and slice them with the peel on. Place the slices in a large metal bowl with about a cup of water. Heat on medium-high, stirring often so the apples don’t stick. Cook the apples until completely soft, time depends on quantity.
To make the applesauce, we used a China cap and wooden pestle, but a food mill or potato ricer may work too. The goal is to push the apples through the small holes of the strainer, and discard the peel. This step is the most time consuming part of the whole process.
Now you have applesauce!! Measure the applesauce so you know how to adjust the recipe.
Cook them until they turn into a mushy apple slop.
2 quarts applesauce (you could use store-bought applesauce, see note below)
4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon allspice
*(If using store-bought applesauce, taste as you mix in sugar so you don’t add too much, if it is too sweet, you can add 1 tbsp of lemon juice.)
Cook on medium-low heat until the flavors are well blended.To prevent sticking, stir frequently as mixture thickens. (If too thick, add a small amount of water for desired consistency.)
Now you have lovely and delicious apple butter!