Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Apple Butter and Pumpkin Pie

It's Fall! It's colder out, the ground is covered in leaves, Halloween is coming, and that all means Fall has definitely arrived. We've planned our trip to the pumpkin patch, and I'm diligently working on my holiday gift list.

Fall also means one of my favorite foods, apples, are in season and I'm in the mood for more cooking and canning. Mom has a generous apple tree, so she brought over many pounds of apples, casually mentioning that it would be nice to receive some apple butter for Christmas. Done!

I have a favorite apple butter recipe, which seems to be a crowd pleaser, so I thought I'd share that with you today. Then, once you've got all the apple butter what do you do with it? Now, I like it on toast, or mixed into plain yogurt, or spread on banana bread, but possibly my favorite is to use it in Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie, so that recipe is here too. Enjoy!

Apple Butter in the Crockpot

5-6 lb. apples (any kind, but I tend to prefer the sweet and crunchy ones - not granny smiths or red delicious)
1/2 cup apple juice or water
1 cup sugar (brown or white)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp nutmeg

Peel & core apples. Place all ingredients in crockpot/slow cooker and cover.
Heat on high 1-3 hours. Turn to low and heat 8-12 hours more.
Remove cover, blend with immersion blender or in batches in a stand up blender. (Careful! It's really hot!)
Cook uncovered on low another 1-2 hours.
To store, either process pint jars in a water bath canner for 10 minutes (see Canning with Kids for instructions), or cool to room temp, then refrigerate or freeze. I usually put at least a few 2 cup portions in the freezer to have ready for the pie that's coming up next.

5-6 lb. apples, peeled & cored. Dump in slow cooker. 

Add everything else. I always use fresh grated nutmeg 'cause you just can't match that smell. :)

This goopy mess is about half done.

Time to get the blender!

Finished and waiting to be eaten or stored!

I know pumpkin pie is a Fall and especially holiday tradition for an awful lot of people, but I've never really been a fan. I've made and tasted plenty of versions, but it's just not my thing. Or at least it wasn't until I tried Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie. I tried it on a whim a few years ago because I was making a nice traditional Thanksgiving dinner and felt there should be some pumpkin pie, even if it's not my favorite. I came across this recipe by Paula Dean and figured it was worth a try. I made a couple of adjustments, but not many. The biggest one is that I always make 2 pies. The second one is good for gifting or freezing! Here's my version. Enjoy!

Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie

2 cups Apple Butter (that's a 1 pint jar)
2 cups pureed pumpkin (bake and mash, or use a 15 oz. can)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp salt
6 eggs, lightly beaten
12 oz evaporated milk
2 pie shells
* If you use plain apple butter, you'll want to add some spices. 1/2 tsp cinnamon  1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 ground ginger is a nice combo, but adjust to your tastes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine apple butter, pumpkin, brown sugar, and salt.
Stir in eggs.
Slowly stir in milk. Be gentle with it as you want a smooth consistency, not a mixture full of bubbles.
Pre-bake crusts for 5-10 minutes. (This is optional - I just can't stand soggy crusts, so I hedge my bets.) Remove and pour mixture equally into each shell. You can cover the crust edges in tinfoil if they tend to burn.
Bake 40 minutes, or until set.
You really don't want to over-bake these. The standard test is to insert a knife between the edge and center - if it comes out clean it's done. But I never do this, because now you have an ugly knife cut in your pie! Instead, I place it on the counter and shake the pan gently, or tap the side. The filling should look like custard or jello, not liquid. There should be a bit of jiggling in the center, but that's it. If it's bubbling, turning brown, or pulling away from the edges it's starting to get over-done - cool immediately!
I like to serve it room temperature with fresh whipped cream.

To go Dairy Free, you only need to sub out the evaporated milk. You can make a lactose free version by simmering soy milk until it reduces and gets thicker. Just make sure to start with way more than you need so that you have enough after evaporation.

To go Gluten Free, just sub out the crust for a GF version. There are some readily available mixes these days, or you can make your own. You can also skip the crust entirely, bake the filling in ramekins and serve it as a custard instead!

This is just the apple butter, pumpkin, sugar, and salt. It should be smooth and dark brown. 

When you stir in the eggs it lightens in color and the consistency gets a lot thicker. 

Add milk slowly while stirring to minimize bubbles. 

2 pies are better than 1!

These have a tiny bit of cracking on top, so I probably left them a few minutes too long. I also should have followed my own advice and covered the edges in tinfoil. Oh well! Plus the extra went in ramekins to be baked custard instead. 

I hope these goodies help round out your holiday meal, or at least make your house smell like Fall. :)


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