Hallmarks of Appalachian cooking include heartiness, resourcefulness and deep-seated tradition. No other dish resonates like the apple stack cake, typically made with warm spices like cinnamon and clove and dried apples or apple butter. Chef Travis Milton, a Virginia native and cofounder of the Appalachian Food Summit honors Appalachian ingenuity in his Appalachian Apple Stack Cake. When spices were scarce, his great-grandmother used Red Hots candy to provide the cinnamon flavor in the apple butter, a family tradition he’s embraced. If you don’t have any Red Hot candy on hand, use 2 tablespoons (12 grams) ground cinnamon instead. Find the recipe for Travis’ Apple Stack Cake in our May/June Issue, on sale April 24th! Travis will continue to share the footways of his people at his new restaurant, Shovel and Pick, in his Wise County hometown.
- 12 pounds (5,443 grams) apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into 1- to 2-inch pieces
- 1 to 1½ cups (240 to 360 grams) water
- 1½ to 3 cups (300 to 600 grams) granulated sugar, divided
- 5 cinnamon candies or Red Hots (2 grams)
- Fill a large stockpot with 1 inch of water (1 to 1½ cups [240 to 360 grams]) then add apple pieces to pot. Cook apples over medium-low heat. Apples will start to brown as they oxidize; let them break down. Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are very soft, 1 to 1½ hours.
- Taste for level of sweetness. Add 1½ to 2 cups (300 to 400 grams) sugar; stir and mash remaining chunks of apples.
- Add cinnamon candies, stirring as they melt down. Simmer until reduced to desired thickness, 1 to 2 hours. Add up to 1 cup (200 grams) more sugar, if desired. To determine if apple butter is the correct thickness, spoon a small amount onto a plate, and let stand for 1 minute. If a ring of liquid does not separate around the edge, it is ready. Let cool, and transfer to airtight containers, or can for longer storage. It will keep for about a month in the refrigerator and up to six months in the freezer.
What kind of apples are best to use for your apple butter?
Hey Nicole! McIntosch or Granny Smith are always a trusty option–just make sure to use an apple that doesn’t have too watery of consistency when cooked down. And also keep in mind that the tarter the apple you use, like Granny Smith, it’ll lead to a tarter apple butter. Happy baking!