Re-imagine seasonal eating with Paul Virant’s creative jams, relishes and preserves in The Preservation Kitchen (Ten Speed Press, 2012). Clear instructions ensure safe canning practices without inhibiting the artistry of unusual flavor partnerships: summer fruit served with meats and winter produce, or delicate spring vegetables flavored with the robust herbs and spices typical of fall cuisine. The following smoked apple butter recipe is from “Jams, Marmalades, Conserves, and Butters.”
The smell of wood fires and the taste of crisp local apples are so intrinsically linked to fall that combining the two elements in a preserve makes perfect sense. The result is apple flavor embellished with smoke and caramel—a fine addition to seared scallops, a bourbon cocktail, or just about anything that benefits from smoke and sweetness.
This apple butter requires adequate time for smoking, cooking, and processing. I save the cores and cook them with lemon rind and juice to make a light pectin-fortified broth. The broth is folded into the apples after they are smoked.
While a stovetop smoker works well for small smoking projects, this recipe requires a more dedicated setup. I smoke the apples for 2 hours in a Weber Smokey Mountain. Below I’ve outlined the steps for setting up the Smokey Mountain, though the instructions can be modified to suit other outdoor smokers as long as the time and temperature stay the same. For this recipe, you will need hardwood lump charcoal and untreated wood chunks, such as hickory or cherry.
• 10 pounds golden apples (86% of total volume)
• 1 lemon, juiced and zested (1% of total volume)
• 3-1/2 cups sugar (13% of total volume)
1. Core and halve the apples. Put the cores in a pot with the juice and zest from the lemon. Cover the cores with 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Decrease to a simmer and cook for 1 hour, then strain and discard the solids.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the smoker. Remove the lid and the large center cylinder. Open the vent in the charcoal basin, ensuring that the holes aren’t blocked by bits of charcoal or ash. Place the center ring down and the charcoal chamber on top of it. Fill the chamber halfway up with hardwood lump charcoal.
3. Put about 3 sheets of crumpled newspaper at the base of a heavy-duty chimney starter. Place the chimney on a grate or a heat-proof surface that allows air to flow into its base and light the paper on about 3 sides. After 5 to 10 minutes, the charcoal should start to catch fire, begin to glow red, and turn ashen around the edges.
4. Dump the contents of the chimney onto the unlit charcoal, using metal tongs to pick up any pieces that stray to the sides. Once the smoke subsides, place three 3- to 5-inch chunks of wood on the charcoal.
5. Reassemble the smoker: Return the center cylinder (which should be fitted with a water bowl and two grates) on top of the charcoal basin. With a heat-proof pitcher gently pour water through the grates into the bowl, trying not to splash the coals underneath, until it is nearly full. Once the smoke has subsided, about 5 minutes later, put the apples, skin side down, on the top grate and cover with the lid, ensuring that the vent is open.
6. Smoke the apples for 2 hours between 225 degrees F and 250 degrees F, checking only periodically to ensure the coals are still burning (the less you open the lid, the more smoke stays with the fruit). After 2 hours, the apples should be golden brown and tender.
7. In a large pot, stir together the smoked apples, the strained apple broth, and the sugar. Cover and bring to a boil. Decrease to a simmer and cook gently for 1/2 hour. In batches, purée the apples until smooth. Return to the pot and cook to 200 degrees F, about 20 minutes.
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Reprinted with permission from The Preservation Kitchen, by Paul Virant and Kate Leahy, copyright 2012, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.