Falling for Apples
By Chef Deb Traylor
If you live in Colorado or have visited us during this time of year, you know there’s a certain amount of anticipation when fall arrives in our beautiful state. With unbridled enthusiasm we look forward to cooler evenings, spectacular fall foliage, pulling out our fleece jackets, wearing orange and blue for the Broncos, being outdoors when the air is so crisp and clean, and the inevitable time when our local orchards and backyards are overflowing with an amazing variety of apples!
In fact, if you drive down any neighborhood street in Boulder and many Northern Colorado counties during the fall you’ll find sidewalks and back alleys covered in fallen apples. During the 1880’s this part of Colorado was famous for its fruit orchards and as the city grew many of the trees were removed. However, if you care to explore some out-of-the-way spots, you can find stray apple, plum, cherry, peach and apricot trees growing wild beside trails and wooded public lands.
Every fall I receive dozens of calls, texts and emails asking if I can use extra apples. My answer is, and will always be, YES! No one wants their precious apples to go to waste, and when there seems to be just too much to handle, I start seeing boxes of them left on my front porch. Sometimes there’s a note from the giver with a description of the apple variety or how old the tree is that produced them. Other times the words are desperate, “OMG! I can’t take it any longer... can you PLEASE use them??” But more often then not, I arrive home and there are boxes and bags left without a note. Sometimes I think I might be on some secret “apple/produce dumping ground site" where visitors pass along my address and say “go here… she’ll take them!”. All I can say is, this is a list I’m happy to be on!
Happy fall Colorado, and to my friends who still have apples.. you know where I live!
A Few Notes:
- When we first tested this recipe we used just 4 cups of apple butter, but we all decided on our next batch we’d love to have more filling so I’ve adjusted the recipe suggesting an additional cup of apple butter, if you have it on hand.
- We prefer to make our desserts and breakfast bars less sweet, but if you have a sweet tooth, increase the sugar in your apple butter recipe, rather than the apple bar recipe.
- Feel free to substitute 1 cup of oat or spelt flour in the bar if you prefer additional flavor and texture.
- This recipe can be halved and prepared in an 8x8-inch pan.
- If you're making homemade apple butter using the recipe below, you won't need to process (can) the apple butter before adding to the bars.
Apple Butter Bars
- 4-5 cups apple butter (see recipe below)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter
- 1 egg
- 1 cup chopped pecans
Prepare or purchase apple butter in advance. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 13x-9-inch glass baking dish and set aside.
Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and egg, then use a fork, your fingers, or a pastry cutter to incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients. You are looking for a coarse, pea-sized crumb.
Press half of the crumb mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Spread 4 -5 cups of prepared apple butter over the base, then sprinkle chopped pecans and the remainder of crumb mixture over the filling.
Bake in preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Makes about 24 squares.
Spiced Apple Butter
- 24 Macintosh or Cortland apples (6 lbs.) peeled, cored and sliced
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- ½ cup apple or orange juice
Place apples in a large slow cooker. Mix sugar, spices and juice in a small bowl and pour over apples. Cook on low for 9 hours - it works best to do it overnight. If you like your apple butter extra thick, remove the lid after cooking for 9 hours and cook for another hour. Fill canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch space at the top, cover and process for 10-15 minutes, depending on your altitude. In Ft. Collins, we process for 15 minutes. This recipe makes about four pints or two quarts. Note: we like our apple butter on the tart side, if you like it sweeter, feel free to increase the sugar to 1/3 or 1/2 cup.