Red Hot Apple Butter
Red Hots candies were created by the Ferrara Pan Candy Co. in the early 1930s using the panned candy method. This process involves creating candy from a hard center unit (such as grains of sugar or nuts) and then transferring them to revolving pans where they are tossed with added flavors, colors and other ingredients until they reach the desired size. From there, the candy is "polished" with a vegetable wax, providing its shine.
Red Hots rank up there with Atomic Fireballs and Hot Tamales in their ability to sting your tongue just enough to make resisting a second piece impossible. As a young girl, I spent very few afternoons at the movies that didn't end with empty boxes of Red Hots and pink-tinged fingertips. Even today, I keep a second stash of the candy hidden away to satisfy sugar cravings.
Their power as a candy is matched by their power as a spice. So experiment. Reinvent a simple bowl of popcorn by adding a few candies to the melted butter or make candied apples by dipping Granny Smiths into a Red Hots-infused glaze. Red Hots deserve their own place on the spice rack.
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In a large, heavy-bottomed pan (such as cast iron), bring the cider to a boil. Cook it down to 2 1/2 cups. Add apples and simmer until they are mushy and no longer watery, about 2 hours.
Push apple mixture through a sieve into a large bowl, removing any apple skin and lumps. Measure the apple mixture in cups and put back in the pot. For every 1 cup of pulp, add 1/2 cup sugar. Then, add ground cinnamon and candies. Cook uncovered on medium heat for 6 to 8 hours, stirring occasionally, until mixture becomes thick. The apple butter should be a reddish-brown color.