From West Virginia down to Kentucky, the mountain tradition of making apple butter in the fall dates back at least to the late eighteenth century, when the condiment was prepared out of doors in large black iron kettles. Today, the Pennsylvania Dutch lay claim to apple butter as a commercial specialty, but I’ve yet to sample a jar of theirs that can compare with the silky smooth, perfectly spiced, homemade examples I’ve had deep in the Southern Appalachians. And, by the way, the folks in Mississippi, for some reason, also seem to know a thing or two about what constitutes superior apple butter. One secret to their success is long, slow simmering over very low heat. Apple butter is good spread on any breads—including pancakes, waffles, and even coffee cake.
In a large stainless-steel or enameled pot, combine the apples and cider. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer till the apples are mushy, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
Drain the apples, then either reduce them to a purée in a food processor or mash them with a potato masher till very smooth. Place the soft pulp in another stainless-steel or enameled pot, add the brown sugar, spices, and salt, stir well, and simmer slowly over very low heat, uncovered, till quite thick, 1 to 1½ hours, stirring often.
Remove from the heat, ladle into sterilized
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