Time to pretend it is fall with the cinnamon sweet flavors of apples: a one pot recipe for apple cider and apple butter. It’s September, and while we southerners would like it to be fall, it is warm enough to settle for ‘harvest season’. Thankfully, it truly is. The hay and corn fields around us are being cut and plowed, to the great joy of our little toddler. We too have pulled out the last of the green beans, the straggling squash plants and the burnt out flowers. The peppers, however, have no plans on stopping. You can read more about our “Spring Garden” and “Summer Vegetable Patch”, and while you stay tuned for what’s growing this fall.
Bunny Book Club
I had grand intentions, this fall, to begin an in-person mom meet-up for some local moms of three-and-unders. Instead, our newborn went through a health scare, and we were required to stay home during her testing period for about six weeks. This idea of a meet-up, simply changed veins. We call it “Bunny Book Club” after the book by Annie Silvestro. So now, once weekly, my toddler and I blend early education concepts with crafts, reading and some time outside (weather permitting!).
For our inaugural official bunny book club, I picked the concept of “apples”. I decided once our baby was born, that Sundays would be a prep day for the week. Adding five or so minutes to think about books, a craft and a snack revolving a concept was more of a creative pleasure than another chore. I browse our bookshelves, add a few books from the library catalog to a pick-up order and take a gander at Pinterest.
How I Streamline Planning
Apples don’t grow well in our zone, so we sourced two 3 pound bags from Aldi during our Monday grocery run. While I had premeditatedly decided upon “Apple Cider Donuts” by Half Baked Harvest, it gave me extra time to make a plan of attack. One does not just process three pounds of apples, make apple butter and apple donuts with a two year old and an infant all in one day. Thus began a wonderful three day process, led by my crockpot, that left my kitchen smelling like Vermont and “bunny book club” set for Thursday after nap. Nap time is precious, and I do try to use it with balance: some work and some play.
I used my Sunday research to find a cider recipe with good overlap to Tieghan’s apple butter. This would allow me to move fluidly (no pun intended) from one recipe to the next. We spent some pre-dinner time chopping (toddler knife set) and coring the apples, something Wade enjoyed immensely. The crockpot ran for six hours for cider, and another three for butter. Thursday, I picked up our extra library books in the morning, and we baked our donuts before lunch. While they cooled during naptime, I gathered an old quilt, old tent, the library books and threw it all in our wagon. Game time.
What is Apple Butter?
A friend had recently asked for an apple cider recipe that I had used years ago, but I couldn’t find it. And since we would be cooking down our apples for apple butter, I was to my benefit to test a cider recipe for this cause. Half Baked Harvest’s recipe calls for “apple butter”, which is more of a thick, sweetened apple sauce that adds a punch of flavor. It can also be a toast topper, a cookie filler, or mixed into an apple pie. If you’re planning to cook with apples during the fall and winter, put some apple cider and apple butter in your freezer. (Tieghan also has many more apple recipes that will use up that butter in a jiffy!)
Good Ingredients, Good Donuts
The cider recipe is simple, so the complexity will need to come from good apples and a variety of sweet and tart apples. Sweet apples would be Gala, Fuji, Pink lady, Honeycrisp and Jazz, while tart apples are Granny Smith, Braeburn, Pacific Rose and Jonathan. This pairs well with the apple donut recipe, which calls for a chopped Honeycrisp apple as well. The cider gains its sweetness from brown sugar, its spice from whole cloves & cinnamon sticks, and its fun from one orange. Any leftover cloves and cinnamon sticks can always be saved for Christmas crafts, simmer pots or potpourri!
Making these three items provides so much one on one potential time with your toddler. It give them opportunity to practice listening, cleanliness, chopping, mixing, mashing, pouring, straining, measuring and more. For us, its a weekly practice. We add fun tunes, dance, sample, and talk about the things we are practicing. With every opportunity to spill, our toddler has increased in his kitchen abilities. It is one of my favorite things to do with him! Let’s get started:
Step 1: Apple Cider
3 lbs of apples, cored
10 cups of water
1 tablespoon of whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon of allspice
½ cup of brown sugar
1 orange (optional)
- Cut and core the apples in fourths and place in a crockpot
- Add 10 cups of water, your spices and orange (if using)
- Cook on high for 3 hours, then mash or cut smaller and add the brown sugar
- Cook on high for 3 additional hours
- Serve hot, or cool and store in the refrigerator for 1 week, or freeze.
Step 2: Apple Butter
Apples from apple cider (cooked)
½ cup of maple syrup
1 teaspoon of vanilla
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
A pinch of kosher salt
1 ½ cup of apple cider
- Put apples (removing the whole cloves and cinnamon sticks) into a food processor or blender, along with 1 ½ cup of apple cider and remaining ingredients
- Return the apple mixture to the crockpot and cook for 3 hours on high without the lid
- Cool and store in the refrigerator for 1 week, or freeze.
Step 3: Apple Donuts
“Apple Cider Donuts” by Half Baked Harvest
1 ½ cup apple cider
2 tablespoon soft butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
¼ cup apple butter
½ cup brown sugar
2 cup flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp kosher salt
1 chopped & skinned Honeycrisp apple
- In a bowl, combine cider, butter, vanilla, eggs and apple butter
- In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices
- Add the dry mixture to wet mixture and add the chopped apple
- Grease a donut pan, fill with batter and bake for 12-14 minutes at 350 degrees
- Cool and top with Half Baked Harvest’s maple glaze, cream cheese frosting or cinnamon sugar
After nap time, we quickly iced our cooled donuts, grabbed baby sister and marched out to our back acre. We have a perfect triangle of silver maple trees that always have a spot of shade, no matter the time of day. The tent was set up, the wagon unloaded and bunny book club was in action!
I do hope that this is an experience we can share with our close friends, but for now, it fills a need with a bit of fun. TD doesn’t mind the extra sweets lying around either. As the week comes to a close, I must begin the brainstorming process again! Drop your suggestions in the comments.