Food Friday: the fluid dynamics of superheated apple butter

I have got to find a less time-consuming way to make apple butter, as much as I love the results. When my parents were visiting recently, we harvested some apples and made applesauce. That’s a little tedious, but not so bad with the food mill/strainer I have, which means no peeling is required. I saved some of the applesauce back to make apple butter, and one pot’s-worth ended up taking one evening and most of the next day to reduce down to butter, with periodic stirring required the whole way. I blame my fussbudget electric stove, which causes hot spots that cause the apple goo to explode like the mudpots at Yellowstone. I don’t mind my stove area looking like it’s been carpetbombed by applesauce, but I do mind having it explode onto my hands and arms and burning me. And the 8+ hours of fairly frequent stirring kinda curtailed my movements too.

It’s interesting, though, at least for a geek like me – at some point about two-thirds of the way through the cooking down process, the stuff stopped bubbling up if I didn’t stir it, as it had been, and started bubbling up as I stirred it. My speculation is that that was the point where it got viscous enough that the heat pockets weren’t enough to break the increased surface tension, and so it just stored up the energy until I broke the surface by stirring and everything exploded when it got the chance.

I’m intrigued by Marisa @ Food in Jars’ recent recipe for rustic fruit butter made in the oven. It certainly wouldn’t make the same kind of smooth apple butter that I just made, but a chunky version could be just as appealing in its own way, and anything that doesn’t have to be stirred every 5 minutes is sounding really good right now.

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