Autumn is the best time to enjoy one of the many healthy varieties of apples grown in Missouri.
“Low calorie apples are a dieter’s dream. A medium apple is only about 80 calories. If you eat the peel they are also a good source of fiber,” said Cammie Younger, a nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
According to Younger, apples should be handled gently to avoid bruising. Then refrigerate apples to ensure long lasting crispy juicy flavor and texture. To delay withering, keep apples in plastic bags with small air holes to maintain a high moisture level.
“Missouri apples maintain excellent quality longer than apples that have been in long-term commercial cold storage. Even though apples can be stored for a long time and still maintain a high quality, eventually they will decay and lose their nutritional value,” said Younger.
Apple butter goodness
Many families have a tradition of preserving fresh apples in the fall by having gatherings to make apple butter. There are several ways to cook the apples in preparation for processing.
“Using the top of a range is a common practice and requires constant stirring to prevent scorching,” said Younger.
Using a large roasting pan and baking at 300 degrees in the oven, stirring only occasionally, is a less engaged method.
“The butter thickens as it bakes without scorching,” said Younger.
Cooking the apples outdoors over an open fire in large Dutch ovens is also a popular method.
“This technique requires constant stirring as well, and special care must be given to outdoor fire safety,” said Younger.
Regardless the method of cooking the apples, Younger says it is necessary to hotpack all home-canned apple products and process them in a boiling-water bath for the specified times. Open kettle canning of any product is not safe.
“Open kettle canning is when you bring the product to a high temperature and place it into jars without following up with the hot water bath canning process,” said Younger.
Apple butter recipe
8 pounds apples
2 cups cider
2 cups vinegar
2 and one quarter cups white sugar
2 and one quarter cups packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cloves
Wash, remove stems, quarter and core fruit. Cook slowly in cider and vinegar until soft. Press fruit through a colander, food mill or strainer. Cook fruit pulp with sugar and spices then stir frequently. To test for doneness, remove a spoonful and hold it away from steam for two minutes. Apple butter is done if it remains mounded on the spoon. Doneness can also be tested by spooning a small amount onto a plate. When a rim of liquid does not separate around the edge of the apple butter, it is ready for processing.
Fill hot, sterilized, half-pint or pint jars. Leave a quarter inch headspace. Adjust lids and process for 5 minutes at 0 – 1000 feet altitude or 10 minutes at 1,001 – 6000 feet altitude. Yield 9 – 10 half pints.
Apple butter is a tasty treat on fresh baked biscuits or spread on whole wheat pancakes. Try serving it with peanut butter on whole wheat bread for a unique peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
“Apple butter can also be served as a dipping sauce for cheese sticks, pretzels, pita chips and whole wheat crackers,” said Younger. “It is a wonderful fall treat that can last all year.”
For more information on nutrition, contact one of the following nutrition specialists: Dr. Lydia Kaume in Barton County, (417) 682-3579; Dr. Pam Duitsman, in Greene County, (417) 881-8909; or Cammie Younger in Texas County, (417) 967-4545. Information is also available online http://extension.missouri.edu.