8 pounds apples, quartered and cored (using more than one variety will produce a more interesting butter)
3 cups apple cider
1/2 cup cider vinegar
21/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
21/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Place the apples in a large pot. Add the apple cider and cider vinegar, cover and cook slowly over medium heat until apples are very soft. Remove pot from burner and let apples cool enough so they can be handled comfortably.

Press fruit through a colander, food mill or strainer to remove skins. Stir in the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, then scrape mixture into an oven-proof, non-aluminum roasting pan (with sides deep enough to accommodate mixture). If you don't have a pan large enough, you could use two smaller ones, dividing apple mixture evenly between them.

Place pan(s) in a preheated, 350-degree oven. Once mixture begins to bubble, reduce temperature to 250 degrees and bake for about 5 hours (less if you're using 2 pans) or until mixture is thick enough that it mounds slightly on a spoon.

To prevent a caramelized skin from forming on surface and to promote even cooking, stir mixture every 45 to 60 minutes.

To store at room temperature, wash 9 pint jars (or a combination of half-pints and pints of that equivalent) toward the end of apple butter's cooking time. Prepare lids as manufacturer directs.

Ladle hot butter into 1 hot jar at a time, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Attach lid. Fill and close remaining jars. Process pints and half-pints in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes (at 1,000 to 6,000 feet, process for 20 minutes; above 6,000 feet, for 25 minutes).

To store in refrigerator, ladle apple butter into clean containers, attach lids, let cool on counter, then refrigerate for up to 12 months or longer (length of storage varies, but because of high sugar content, it's only a quality issue, not a food safety issue).

Makes 8 to 9 pints.

VARIATION: For pear butter, substitute 8 pounds of pears for the apples. Reduce the apple cider to 2 cups, the cider vinegar to 1/4 cup and the nutmeg to 1/2 teaspoon. If desired, add 1 teaspoon grated orange rind.