This jam is delicious on ice cream, any kind of bread or loaf, and as a savory spread for pork or a ham sandwich. I was seeking a flavor that evoked caramel apples more than an apple pie, and the double use of caramel does the job. My daughter makes a jam that requires many more steps, such as steeping the cores and peels and using the liquid to layer the flavor, but I like the layered doses of caramel and the ease with which this jam is prepared. —Bevi
6 to 8 half pint jars of jam
nice sized apples - a firm variety such as Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, or Cripps, peeled, cored, and chopped into I" pieces - about 7 cups
6 to 7 tablespoons
fresh lemon juice, or more as you like
fresh apple cider
apple cider vinegar
seed from 1 vanilla bean
half pint jam jars, with lids and screw tops, properly sterilized
NOTE: I make sure that I have assembled all my ingredients before I begin cooking the jam. Working with caramel requires full concentration, and it is best to have all ingredients ready.
Place the lemon juice in a large bowl. Peel, core and chop 3 apples at a time and thoroughly mix them into the lemon juice until all the apples are prepared and covered with lemon juice. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
In a very large jam pot or enamel Dutch oven, place 2 and 1/2 cups sugar and 1/2 cup of the cider over a medium high flame. Stir constantly to dissolve the sugar, and continue cooking to boiling. Reduce the heat and continue to stir, producing a light caramel colored syrup. This will take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. I usually need 10 minutes.
Immediately add the apples, the rest of the cider, the apple cider vinegar, and the honey to the jam pot. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, and skim the film that rises to the top with a spoon, then reduce the heat, add the seed from the vanilla bean, (if you want to add Calvados, do so now), and cook, stirring often, for about 30 minutes. Keep the mixture simmering. The apples will retain their shape. throughout the cooking process, but become soft.
After the apples have cooked for 25 minutes, put the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and a tablespoon of water in a 2 or 3 quart saucepan over medium high heat. Stirring constantly, make a much darker caramel syrup - quite brown in color, being careful to not burn yourself as you prepare the caramel syrup. It may take less time for this batch of syrup to become darker. Pour this syrup immediately into the apple mixture, and stir the mixture well. Don't worry if the caramel seizes a bit - keep stirring and the caramel with soften and meld with the apple mixture. Allow to cook for another 15 minutes, stirring constantly.
Depending on the apples you use, some of the chopped apples make break down towards the end of the cooking process. If that is NOT the case, take a potato masher, and smash about 50% of the apples in the mixture - retaining some pieces for chunkiness, but allowing half of the mixture to take on a jam-like texture. At this point, almost all liquid should be evaporated.
Fill jam jars, making sure that you pack the jam well, and process in a hot water bath according to your preferred instructions. I process for 15 minutes. Take out of the hot water bath, wait for the "ping" sound that indicates that the jams are sealed, and allow jams to sit for a day. Any jam that does not have a secure seal should be placed in the refrigerator.