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Cran-Apple Butter

November 17, 2014

I just got Prune, by Gabrielle Hamilton, and I have been reading it like a novel. One of my favorite things about it is the chapter called, "Garbage". It's a guide to what to do with scraps, ends and on-their-way-out ingredients, and turn them into a dish you'd serve to VIPs. 


I got all inspired, and started looking for my own garbage I could turn into delicacies. I spied a bag of apples I had gotten at Wal-Mart a few weeks ago-- I was in a rush, and the kids needed fruit for the week in their lunches. Well apparently my children's tastebuds only crave Applecrest apples, and they were downright mutinous when I tried to sneak a mushy Ginger Gold (probably from China) into their backpacks instead of their beloved (local) Honey Crisps.


So I took out my crock pot, dumped them in and started digging around for other ingredients: cranberry juice leftover from a Cosmo-ful evening, a knob of fresh ginger, bourbon (because what isn't better with a tablespoon or two of bourbon?) and some Chinese five spice (you could be more traditional and use apple pie spices: cloves, ground ginger, cinammon). I peeled half of the apples-- the peels have lots of pectin and lend a great texture to the butter, and they (mostly) break down after cooking for such a long time. 


I cooked it on low all night (and then some), and woke up to the most amazing apple pie aromas. My kids were begging for it on their toast. 


  • 20 (about 6 1/2 pounds) apples-- half of them peeled (save the rest of the peels for Apple Peel Bourbon to further advance your scrap utilization!), all of them cored and rough chopped into large chunks 

  • 2 cups cranberry juice, or apple cider if you've got that

  • 2 tablespoons bourbon

  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated on the microplane, or finely minced

  • 1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice

  • a few grinds of black pepper

  • 1 cup brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (if needed-- taste the mixture for tartness and balance)


  • Combine apples, cranberry juice, bourbon, five spice, pepper, sugar, and lemon juice, if using, into a slow cooker. Turn on lowest setting, put on lid and let cook overnight.

  • The next morning, take the lid off. Mash the apples a bit-- or take an immersion blender to it if you want perfectly smooth butter.

  • Let the mixture continue to cook with the lid off until the butter is thick-- like the texture of BBQ sauce.

  • Pour into sterilized mason jars- I cooked mine down enough so that it made about 3 pints-- and spread on toast or use in this delicious recipe for Baked Brie and Prosciutto bites. 


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