Wintry apple butter

Apple butter is a great way to use fruit that is a little older, but if you plan to seal it inside jars, remember only to use fruit that is at the peak of freshness

Christmas and Hanukkah are now in the past, but with New Year's coming up, the holiday crunch is still ongoing. If you're hosting a party, sharing a dessert, or want something cozy and sweet to nip into for the next few weeks (or the next year), here is an easy, delicious, and healthy recipe that is great to have at home by yourself, or keep stashed in the cupboard to bring along as a gift for any occasion.

Fruit butters and spreads are fantastically versatile. Serve them with desserts, breads, cheese and crackers, pork chops, crepes, pancakes or muffins, or even use them as substitutes for apple sauce or oil in cake recipes.

Hints of cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla warm up this treat and will make you want to pull on some flannel PJs and a fuzzy blanket. All of the sweetness in this recipe comes from the fruit, without added sugar, and you can use a variety of apples if you like. I used 4 gala apples, 8 spartans, and a mix of kalamata and calimyrna figs, but you can use any variety on hand.

Wintry Apple Butter with Pears and Figs
Yields 7 cups
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

1 cup dried figs (hard stems removed), quartered
12 apples, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
3 bosc pears, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
3 cups apple juice
1 vanilla pod, seeded and cut in half
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon

 

Fill a large pot with the fruit, juice, vanilla seeds and pod, and bring to a boil, simmering for 20 to 30 minutes, until fruit is cooked through and the liquid is reduced by almost half. Stir occasionally to ensure that the fruit doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.

Remove the vanilla pod, and buzz the fruit with a handheld immersion blender, or transfer fruit in batches to a blender. Purée until smooth, and add spices.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge, or heat process in jars (look up canning guides for info, including Ball Fresh Preserving) and share as gifts. Canned apple butter is safe to eat one year after processing. Refrigerate after opening.

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