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Caramelized Spicy Apple Butter

I confess that I have a problem with most apple butters. To my taste, they tend to be too sweet and too spicy, not in the chile pepper kind of way, but in the sweet cinnamon-y kind of way. I do love spicy things such as gingerbread and spice cookies and cakes. But, I’ve always thought that fruit butters that use all those sweet spices just mask the flavors of the fruit and they all end up tasting the same so that I can’t tell a pumpkin butter from an apple butter from a peach butter. All I taste is cinnamon and nutmeg and sugar.

As a result, when I decided to make apple butter this year, I knew it would have to be different. Unlike the peach butter I make, which is just basically peaches and sugar and bourbon, the apple butter would have to have some flavoring added. Otherwise, it would just be concentrated applesauce, right? My inspiration came from thinking about caramel apples and from a juice bar apple drink I once had with fresh ginger added. I decided to try to mix those flavors and see what would happen.

I started with caramelizing the sugar. Here is one pound of sugar in the pot, melting and turning into a wonderful color. I have never caramelized this much sugar at once. It was amazing and scary at the same time.

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Four pounds of peeled and cored apples go in next. This was a scary few minutes. Boy, that sugar turned into a huge mass of hard candy.

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I added some apple cider, brought it all up to a simmer, and stirred it occasionally until all the sugar melted again. It cooked for awhile; 30 minutes, maybe? I basically boiled it until a lot of the liquid had evaporated. I thought it would be easier to boil away the liquid while the apples were still in chunks rather than when it was pureed. Purees tend to spit all over the place and make a mess.

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When everything was nice and soft and there was just a little liquid in the bottom of the pan, I got out the immersion blender and blended it all together until it was as smooth as I could get it.

Here’s the fun part. Two tablespoons of freshly grated ginger went into the pot. I let it cook down for awhile and tasted. It still needed something. It was a little flat. The ginger had a nice zing and I could taste the caramel, but it needed another flavor. This is when I opened the spice drawer and took a look around. I saw the smoked paprika and decided to throw some of that in the mix.

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Ooh! What a lovely sweet smokey scent! I think maybe at this point my tastebuds were a little apple saturated, because when I tasted the butter, it was hard for me to distinguish any ginger or paprika or caramel flavors. The husband said it was fine, but I really thought it needed a little extra kick, so I added some cayenne pepper as well.

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When the mixture was nice and thick, I declared it done before I could add anything else to the mix and make it weird.

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How was it, you ask? Well, it was pretty good. There’s a subtle, smoky heat to it that lingers in your mouth, but it is not overtly spicy. It’s also not too sweet, which is nice for a fruit butter. It was yummy on freshly baked biscuits. If you look closely enough, you’ll see red flecks from the cayenne pepper and smoked paprika. The boys thought it was a little too spicy, but I think it will mellow out as it ages.

Want some? I have an extra half pint jar to give away. Just leave me a comment telling me what your favorite Fall activity is and I’ll randomly pick someone on Friday. Sadly, I will only be able to ship domestically this time–not sure what the customs regulations for jams are. Anyway, leave me a comment for a chance to taste this unique apple butter!

Next: freezing apples

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