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Crock-pot makes great apple butter

Apples have been featured at farmers markets for several weeks now.
We purchased a basket of Wolf River apples, a large, early variety.
Its blooms are, many times, killed by late frosts. The result of damaged blooms is skimpy harvests, meaning expensive apples, but they are worth it.
Our ancestors grew apples and, in fall when apples were ripe, families and neighbors gathered outdoors around large iron pots sitting on a fire to take turns stirring and adding spices to make apple butter for table use.
Women washed, peeled, cored and chopped apples.
The apple butter was slowly cooked down until it stood in a heap in a spoon. Then it was placed into hot jars and sealed with hot paraffin, lids screwed on to keep air out, and stored in a cool, dry place.
Once I decided to make apple butter and cooked it on top of the stove. There it simmered, bubbled, boiled and splashed with a plop all over the stove, the wall and the floor.
The apple butter tasted great, but cleaning was no fun.
The following year I had a brilliant idea to cook apple butter very slowly in the oven, all night. This time, the mess was contained in the oven, which was covered in burned apple bits.
Again, the product tasted great, but cleaning was awful.
I did not make apple butter again for years.
Recently, we decided to revisit the messy apple butter making, using a new idea of cooking the apple butter in the crock-pot.
We discussed this neater, cleaner methodology — and a new cook. This time, my husband Jack made apple butter.
The recipe selected is from John Parris’ 1978 book “Mountain Cooking” because it is a simple recipe.
We bought the cookbook when Parris was on television discussing his new book about the mountain cooks who made simple and delicious foods.
Interestingly, Jack Parris attended the same Sylva, N.C., school with various cousins.
They liked to brag about the shenanigans performed under the guise of education.
Parris wrote many books and hundreds of stories about the North Carolina mountains, the town of Sylva and Western Carolina University.
His apple butter contains few ingredients: apples of your choice, cider and spices to your taste of cinnamon, ground cloves and allspice.
We added no sugar because the apples are very sweet.
Our crock-pot is small, so he made half the recipe. Each run made 3 pints of apple butter.
Cooking time was all night, but I only stirred it once. By morning, it stacked in the spoon and was ready for sterile jars with old rings and new flat lids. Jars sealed with a snap as they cooled.
I would recommend the crock-pot method to anyone, young or old.
It makes for easy preparation, easy clean-up, a delicious product and short preparation time for apples.
Just for fun, try this simple little project in your crock-pot. Homemade tastes best! Happy Gardening Everyone!
Jeanne Cope is a garden writer and UT Lifetime Master Gardener. Visit her at jeannecope.com or by email at [email protected]