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Pumpkin Pie Spiced Applesauce for October Unprocessed

chopped apples

It is apple season, which means that no matter where I go or what errand I’m running, inevitably a sack full of arlets, honeycrisps, or jonagolds comes home with me. I’ve been working my way through the bounty, making jam, butter, and sauce (hopefully more than enough to last what is predicted to be a very cold winter).

finished applesauce stack

Today, my technique for super-easy (no peeling or coring necessary) pumpkin pie spiced applesauce is up on Eating Rules, as part of October Unprocessed. Now, I know that we’re currently in the midst of a pie spice backlash, but truly, there’s nothing better than sweet sauce spiked with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice. Try it in your next batch of applesauce. I’m certain you’ll be convinced.

Get the Pumpkin Pie Spiced Applesauce Recipe!

Also, for this applesauce post, we’ve teamed up with MightyNest to offer a snazzy canning giveaway. Head over to Eating Rules to enter.

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CSA Cooking: Fermented Hot Sauce

finished hot sauce bottled

I made my first batch of fermented hot sauce in 2012. It was one of my very earliest fermentation projects and while technically the making of it was uneventful, the finished batch was so incredibly spicy that even one drop gave me immediate heart burn. At the time, I figured that homemade hot sauce just for me and moved along.

hot sauce ingredients

Then last fall, I was visiting Alana and had a chance to taste her hot sauce. It was bright, funky, spicy,  and made everything it touched just a bit better. I decided that I’d give making my own another try when next I had the chance.

chopped peppers and garlic

Well, that chance finally came earlier this month. My September Philly Foodworks share included a pound of hot peppers and a pound of sweet. Wanting to avoid my previous error and not make a sauce that would incinerate my digestive track, it appeared to be the perfect combination of ingredients.

chopped veg in jar

I took inspiration from a number of sources for my batch. I referenced Alana’s post, took a little inspiration from Well Preserved, and also made sure to see how Amanda over at Phickle does it. (By the way, all three of those bloggers have books coming out soon. Alana’s and Amanda’s books are hitting this month. Joel and Dana’s book will be out in the spring).

finished hot sauce mash above

After reading their various techniques and mixing it up with what I generally know about fermentation, I started my batch. I chose to make a brine (1 quart filtered water and 3 tablespoons fine sea salt) rather than directly salting so that I’d end up with a goodly amount of liquid for my final puree (I like a drippy sauce rather than a chunky one).

fermented hot sauce mash

I combined the peppers (sweet and hot), a full head of garlic (peeled, of course), and a big hunk of ginger in the bowl of my food processor and pulsed until I had a relatively uniform mash. I scraped it into a half gallon jar, added the brine, popped an airlock on top, tucked it into a corner, and forgot about it for a couple weeks.

hot sauce yield

I deemed the sauce finished when it had gone from bright green to olive drab, it was super tangy, and I found myself entirely happy to sip the liquid from a spoon. I divided the sauce into two batches, ran it through the blender, and was done. While different from the sauce that inspired it, it is still bright, tangy, and so, so good.

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Slow Cooker Brown Sugar Plum Butter

plums for butter

For most of the last three weeks, my left crisper drawer has been almost entirely occupied by plums. I’ve slowly working my way through this bounty, cooking them into jam, using them in my various demonstrations, and relying on my slow cooker to turn them into butter (two batches, thus far). The bottom of the drawer is finally in sight and I think the remaining plums will become a batch of cardamom-spiked jam.

raw plums in slow cooker

I’ve written a great deal over the years about using a slow cooker to make fruit butters, so if you’re a long-time reader, this post might feel oddly familiar. However, I’m of the belief that anything useful and good can always bear repeating, and so, I push on and offer you another slow cooker.

cooked plum halves

The plums I most like to use for butter are late season Italian plums. Bred for cooking and drying (they are also known as Italian prunes), they are typically the last variety of stonefruit available before the weather slips into fall. They can be slightly bitter or tannic when eaten raw, but once heated or dried, trade those unpleasant elements for a lush texture and natural sweetness.

pureed plums

To make plum butter, I fill my biggest colander, give the plums a good rinse, and then stand at the sink for a time to cut the fruit into halves and remove the pits. I find that for my 6 quart slow cooker, my starting weight is typically between 7 and 8 pounds.

Then I heap those plum halves in the cooker, add a few tablespoons of water to prevent scorching in the early stages of cooking, set the lid in place, and cook on high for somewhere between 2 and 4 hours. This first stage of cooking is designed to soften the plums enough so that they can easily be pureed with an immersion blender.

finished plum butter

Once they’re soft, I apply my immersion blender until the plums have been transformed into a puree. Then I balance a wooden chopstick across the lip of the slow cooker crock, and rest the lid on top of it, so that the steam can easily vent. Finally, I turn the cooker on low and proceed to cook the plum puree down over the course of the next 6 to 10 hours (your mileage will always vary here).

I try to give the cooking butter a good stir every couple of hours, to ensure that the top doesn’t dry out while the underside burns.

jars of plum butter

Once the plum puree has reduced down to a dense, thick, spreadable butter, it is done. I like to scrape it out into a medium saucepan for the final pureeing, because if you’ve done your work well, there won’t be enough depth in the slow cooker for an immersion blender to work well.

When the butter is smooth from the second application of the immersion blender, I add the sweetener and spices. In the case of this batch, I sweetened with brown sugar, thinking that it’s molasses-y flavor would go well with the plums. I also added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and a splash of lemon juice for balance.

small jar plum butter

As with all fruit butters, you can sweeten this one to your taste. You could reduce the amount of sugar, use regular granulated sugar, add a bit of honey instead, or even leave it entirely unsweetened (though I find that even a small amount of sugar helps balance the fruit and also improves shelf life).

To preserve, funnel the finished butter into jars (I like half pints for this one, as a little goes a long way), leaving a generous 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in boiling water bath canner for 20 minutes. I always process fruit butters for longer than jam, because their increased density makes it harder for the heat of the canner to penetrate to the center of the jar. A longer processing time helps combat that.

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Spiced Cranberry Shrub + Tangy Cranberry Applesauce


Yikes. It’s been a whole lot of sale, sponsorship, and giveaway posts around here lately, hasn’t it. Let’s get back to the pickles and preserves, shall we?

I know most people see Thanksgiving as the high point of the cranberry season, but I keep buying and using them until the last bag disappears from store shelves. I also always stash a few bags in the freezer for those moments in February when I must have some cranberry bread.

adding sugar to cranberries

Last week, inspired the last drops of liquid left over from a batch of pickled cranberries, I devised a quick cranberry shrub. It is just a combination of cranberries, apple cider vinegar, a little water (since cranberries are so dry, they don’t add any moisture to the party), sugar, and spices. You simmer it all together until the cranberries pop.

spices into cranberries

Once the contents of your saucepan have had a chance to cool (and steep just a bit more), you position a strainer over a large bowl or measuring cup and run the contents of the pot through it. You end up with a very tasty, tart syrup and a sticky mound of berries and whole spices.

spiced cranberry shrub

I like to dip a few spoonfuls of the shrub into a wide mouth quart jar and then fill it all the way up with fizzy water. The sharpness of the vinegar carries the flavor of the berries better than a syrup made without any additional acid and so it takes very little to brighten up a water or your favorite cocktail (I have it on very good authority that 3/4oz cranberry shrub + 1oz whiskey + 3oz champagne makes for a deliciously celebratory adult beverage).

open cranberry shrub

If you choose to make this, I highly suggest that you take those sticky solids and push them through a food mill or fine mesh sieve. You’ll end up with a highly spiced cranberry paste. You could serve it just as it is with some cheddar cheese (packed into a little ramekin) or you could do like I did and stir it into a batch of freshly made applesauce. It adds gorgeous color to the sauce and would be awfully good with a batch of freshly fried latkes (which starts on December 16).

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Canning 101: An Applesauce FAQ

pint of applesauce

When it comes to my own canning, I like to make a mix of fun things and pantry staples. That means that while I make plenty of highly spiced jams and fancy pickles, I also make a point of putting up a goodly amount of tomato puree and applesauce each year. I stir applesauce into oatmeal, bake it into cakes, and eat it straight from the jar when lunchtime pickings are slim.

One would think that applesauce would be a fairly straightforward thing to preserve, but it can be surprisingly tricky, particularly for new canners. After getting a number of questions about applesauce recently, I thought I’d put together a list of commonly asked applesauce questions and my answers, in the hopes of putting many minds at ease.


What is the best kind of apple for sauce?
I don’t really think that there’s any one apple that makes the best sauce and truly, the best apples to use are the ones you have. I have cooked any number of apples into sauce and it has always been delicious. I would advise that you start with apples that taste good to you and that are relatively free from damage or rot (cutting around a bad spot or two is totally fine).

If you’re working with relatively sweet apples, you can always add a little lemon juice to balance the flavor. If the fruit is quite tart, a little sugar or honey will help adjust the sweetness.


What is the best way to make applesauce?
Your apple saucing approach depends on the gear you have in your kitchen. For basic batches, all you really need is a peeler, a paring knife, and a potato masher. Peel, quarter, and core the apples. Dump them into a big pot with a little water to prevent burning, and cook them on low until they are soft. Use the potato masher to smash them into a chunky sauce.

If you have a food mill or a tomato press with a saucing screen, you can skip the peeling process and put the cored and quartered apples right into your pot. Add a little water, over the pot, and simmer until the apples are tender. Then, work them through the food mill or tomato press. You’ll end up with a peel-free sauce with a uniform texture.

If you want to include the skins in your finished product, core and quarter the apples. Put them in a pot with a little water and cook until soft. Once they’re tender, work the apples through a blender in batches, pureeing until the apple skins are integrated. This works best with a high speed blender, like a Vitamix, Blendtec, or Ninja, but can be accomplished in regular blenders or with an immersion blender if you’re persistent.

I personally like a chunky applesauce, so often use an approach that blends the first and second techniques. I core and quarter my apples, but leave the peels on. I simmer the sauce until it’s tender. Once the fruit flesh has started to separate from the peels, I stand over the pot with a pair of tongs and pull the skins off the fruit. I work those peels through a food mill, to catch any bits of sauce, and then mash the remaining naked apples with a potato masher. You get the color and some of the vitamins from the peels and still retain the chunky consistency.

Apple-Pear Sauce

Do I have to add anything to my applesauce to make it safe for canning?
Nope. Because apples are naturally high in acid, you don’t have to add a thing to it to make it safe for boiling water bath canning. What’s more, apples also have a goodly amount of sugar, so they keep well once canned.

Can I add things to my applesauce?
Yes! You can add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, citrus zest, citrus juice, sugar, honey, or maple syrup (though use maple syrup in conservative amounts. It is lower in acid than other sweeteners and if added in large quantities, can impact the finished acidity of the applesauce.

How long do I process applesauce in a boiling water bath canner? 
If you live under 1,000 feet in elevation, you process pints for 15 minutes and quarts for 20 minutes. If you live above 1,000 feet, your processing time adjustments can be found here. Times and pressure amounts for processing a pressure canner can be found here, though it is not necessary for safety and can often lead to product loss.


I just took my jars of applesauce out of the canner and they are leaking! What did I do wrong?
First of all, know that applesauce almost always siphons like that. It’s hard to prevent it entirely, but you can do a couple of things to help minimize it.

The first is to minimize the amount of air you work into the apples during the saucing process. Apples pushed through a food mill or tomato press can take on more air than those mashed with a potato masher. The air isn’t the end of the world, but it will expand during the processing, which will then force some sauce out of the jar.

The second thing to do is to let the jars cool gradually once the processing time is up. The worst siphoning typically happens in the moments just after you pull the jars out of the canner, when they’re still really hot. Instead, let the jars sit in the canning pot for 10-15 minutes after the canning process is done. Once your timer goes off, you slide the pot off the burner and remove the lid. Let the jars cool slowly in the pot. After the 10-15 minutes are up, pull the jars out. They may start to siphon some, but it will (hopefully) be less than you’ve experienced in the past.

apples for pie filling

If my jars siphon, but the lids eventually seal, is my sauce still safe? 
Yes! No matter how much they leak, if the seals are nice and tight, they are still safely shelf stable.

The surface of my applesauce has turned brown! Is it still safe? 
It is! That is normal oxidation. You can either scrape off the brown layer or just stir it into the rest of he sauce.

If there is mold on the outside of my applesauce jars, is it still safe? 
Yes! Sometimes you end up with a little bit of residual applesauce on the outside of the jars because of the siphoning I mentioned up above. It’s that applesauce residue that is molding. As long as the seal is still good and firm, the sauce inside the jar is perfectly safe.

There are some air bubbles in my finished, sealed jar of sauce. Is it still safe? 
As long as those air bubbles aren’t moving around, they are fine. You can read more about air bubbles in finished products in this post.

If you have an applesauce question that you don’t see here, please make sure to leave a comment and I’ll update this post.

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Slow Cooker Peach Vanilla Butter

peaches on stove

Last month, when I had all those peaches from the Sweet Preservation folks, I did more than just make spiced peach jam. I also cooked up a slow cooker full of peach butter with flecks of vanilla bean and made a batch of mixed stone fruit jam.

peaches in blender

Because I’ve been running on fumes, I didn’t manage to share either of the two remaining techniques/recipes with you. However, I spent some time at various farmers markets this weekend and was reminded that there are still peaches to be had. And so, I’m trying to get them up while they still have some utility.

blending peaches

When it comes to making fruit butters, it’s important to remember that there are a lot of variables, and so it’s better to approach it as a technique than a strict recipe. Here are just some of the things that are up for grabs with slow cooker fruit butters.

Size of the slow cooker. My favorite model is a 40+ year old four quart cooker that cooks at a very low temperature. You might have a brand new one that has both a larger capacity and a higher cooking temperature.

Yield. Even if you had the exact same slow cooker as I did, chances are that your yield would still vary. That’s because ever batch of fruit is going to have different water and sugar content. If your fruit contains a lot of water, you’re going to have to cook longer to reach your desired consistency. Use your judgement and cook until you like the butter. It doesn’t matter if you have to run your slow cooker for five hours longer than I did, it is still okay.

more peaches

Time. There is just no way for me to predict how long a batch of butter will take in your slow cooker and that’s okay. Just fill the cooker up at least 3/4 the way up with puree and start cooking on low. Stir regularly. If you need to run an errand (or go to bed), turn the cooker off, put a lid on it and turn it back on in the morning. Towards the end, if you want to speed things up, turn the cooker on high and stir every ten minutes or so.

Sweeteners. Because fruit butters don’t depend on sugar for set (they become spreadable thanks to the fiber in the fruit), you can always sweeten your butter to taste. However, do remember that sugar is a preservative. That means that if you don’t use any sugar (or if you use a sugar substitute like Splenda or Stevia), the shelf life will be shorter.

propped slow cooker

Now, let’s talk about peeling peaches. Most of the time, when I work with peaches I take the time to peel them because I just don’t like the texture of the skin in the finished product. But not when I’m making butter with them. I find that if you puree the fruit before cooking in a sturdy blender, and then zap it again at the end of cooking with an immersion blender, you’re able to get a perfectly smooth butter, peels and all. This fact deeply pleases my inner lazy person.

full slow cooker

After reading all that, you might still be wondering how you make peach butter. Here’s how.

Slow Cooker Peach Vanilla Butter


  • Peaches
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • lemon juice (optional)
  • sugar, honey, or other sweetener, to taste


  1. Puree enough peaches to fill your slow cooker at least 3/4 of the way up and pour them in.
  2. Scrape a vanilla bean and add the seeds to the puree.
  3. Set the cooker to low.
  4. Put a wooden spoon or chopstick across the mouth of the cooker and set the lid on top of it. This way, you vent the cooking butter.
  5. Cook for 2-3 hours and check. Stir and replace the propped lid.
  6. Keep checking and stirring every hour or two.
  7. If you need to go to bed, turn the butter off and set the lid on the cooker all the way. In the morning, prop the lid again and keep cooking.
  8. When the butter seems quite thick and spreadable, taste it and sweeten it to taste.
  9. Add some lemon juice at this time if you feel it could use a little brightening.
  10. Using an immersion blender, puree the butter so that it is smooth and emulsified.
  11. Funnel the butter into clean, hot half pint jars. Wipe the rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.
  12. Eat on toast, stirring into yogurt, or baked into quick breads all winter long.
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