Zero waste DIY: Crock pot apple and/or pear butter

Our little tourist trap of a town is an interesting mix of outdoor recreation and orchards — and while the spring and summer is all about the water and the mountain, October is the start of weekly festivals celebrating apples, pears, and all the good things this valley produces.

All of that is just to say that last weekend I hit my favorite farm stand (wow, it was busy) to find they had samples of the usual fruit offerings PLUS a crock pot of apple butter.

Looks promising.

Looks promising.

Just for kicks. Just to dip crackers in. Just to give visitors something to try.

So I was chatting up the lady running that little booth and was immediately intrigued: She had made that whole crock of apple butter OVERNIGHT. I did run it through the blender, though, because kids these days don’t like lumps, she admitted when I swooned at the texture. I grilled her on the specifics — when does she start the crock pot? Does she really just leave it and it magically transforms? — took a picture of the recipe she had displayed with my iPod (I have a dumb phone, you guys — we’re just holding out to see how long we can go before we have to get a data plan), and loaded up on a variety of apples (because three varieties make a nice sauce, so the same would be true for butter, right? LOGIC. Also, because you might ask: You want a sweet apple, a tart apple, and something in between the two).

She’d said that she gets the ingredients all prepped and ready to go before dinner, then sleeps in the next morning and wakes up to apple butter. With that in mind, I started my little project around 7:30 p.m. (not before dinner, but eh, close enough), turned the pot to low (I think. I lost the directions a long time ago), and that was that.

The house smelled AMAZING when we all woke up Sunday morning — and I was pleased to see that the apples had indeed cooked down into something thicker than sauce.

And okay, it didn’t look as fantastic as it smelled. But a quick taste test proved that looks aren’t important — it’s what’s on the inside that counts:

Um ... at least it smells good.

Um … at least it smells good.

I scooped that all into the blender, whirled it around, and presto, perfect apple butter. I had vague plans of doing a small batch canning load, but decided to just freeze it instead. It does apparently keep in the fridge for a couple of months, but I’m not about to take any chances with something so perfect.

And wow, is it perfect — this is truly a fantastic apple butter. The real test is how the girls react, and they are both big fans. I like that it’s fuss-free, that I can make it while I sleep!, and that it’s zero waste, at least for me — I can get all of these ingredients in bulk. Even my fruit is sticker-free.

Much prettier!

Much prettier!

I immediately decided I wanted to try it with pears, too, and was going to do that Saturday night … but for various reasons we don’t need to get into here, I decided to take a nap instead of going grocery shopping. And the box of pears I got on Sunday weren’t ripe enough yet. So. Update later, I guess.

UPDATE, Oct. 29, 2016: I made pear butter earlier this week, and while it worked just fine — although it definitely needed to be swirled around in the blender because wow, it was chunky — the apple butter is much better. As I was putting it into jars for the freezer, Abby was all, it’s okay, Mom, just give it away as gifts. I’m not sure what that says about our generosity, but anyway, that’s probably what will happen.

Overnight Crock Pot Apple or Pear Butter

About 3 pounds of apples or pears (I’m sure I used more)

3 cups sugar (or 1 cup honey)

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon cloves

Dash of salt

3/4 cup water

Fill crockpot 3/4 full with peeled, cored and sliced apples/pears. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low overnight, until thick and spreadable. If it’s too watery, remove lid and cook on high until thickened, stirring often to prevent scorching. (I didn’t need to do this.) To remove lumps, process in a blender.

To can, place in a water bath for 10 minutes. HERE is a link to the Ball canning site for info on how to do that.

I think it might be time for some toast.

Next up: Some food for thought.