Spotlight On: Apple Butter

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Ingredients, like shoes, tend to go in and out of style. Bacon has enjoyed a long season of popularity, understandable but still tiresome. Meyer lemons and beets have become likewise ubiquitous. But what of those ingredients that seem to go out of fashion?

Apple butter is an old-school, distinctly American phenomenon. Made by cooking apple pulp until the fruit's sugar caramelizes, apple butter is not actually butter, but a thick, soft spread often spiced with cloves and cinnamon. You can find it on the grocery store aisle with jams, jellies and nut butters or, if you're feeling ambitious, you can make your own.

My mom has long used apple butter as the secret ingredient in her imli (tamarind) chutney, a traditional Indian condiment that goes with various chaat (snacks) like sev puri and samosas. Not one to break with tradition, I buy apple butter to use in my own chutney recipe, but never use it for anything else.

One of the more thoughtful features of the now-defunct Gourmet magazine was its "what else can I do with this?" sidebar, which led readers to its website for ideas on what to do with the random ingredient they had just purchased for a special recipe. Along those lines, it seemed time to investigate what might be done with the half-used jar of apple butter taking up precious condiment-shelf space in my fridge.

As it turns out, apple butter is delicious in a variety of applications:

  • spread on water crackers, topped with Brie;
  • slathered onto warm buttermilk biscuits;
  • as a condiment for a sharp cheddar grilled cheese sandwich;
  • thinned with a little lemon juice and used as a glaze for pork chops.
  • Other suggestions include:

  • spread onto pancakes;
  • swirl into oatmeal or a bowl of cottage cheese;
  • use in lieu of jelly for peanut-and-apple-butter sandwiches;
  • use as a substitute for applesauce in baked goods.
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