Apple Butter

One pint of apple butter

From a humble little apple to a divine indulgence.

Every once in a while, a really good deal comes through on Azure Standard. A couple of years ago, they cleaned out their freezers and sold organic, grass-fed beef and lamb for $2.50/lb as pet food. Tasted pretty good to me!

When I found #2 grade organic juicing apples for $10 for a 20 lb box, I was intrigued. That $0.50/lb is a better price than the $0.75/lb I was paying for #1 grade eating apples. So I figured I may as well order some and see what happened.

When they run specials like this, you don’t get to choose what you get. With the “pet meat,” I got some cuts of beef I’d never heard of before (baron of beef?) in addition to some very tasty lamb chops. With the apples, I figured they were going into apple sauce, so it didn’t much matter. I merely hoped they weren’t golden delicious, as I am not a fan. Alas, the universe conspired against me and they delivered 40 lbs of slightly bruised, kinda scabby, occasionally rotten golden delicious apples.

What does one do with 40 lbs of slightly bruised, kinda scabby, occasionally rotten golden delicious apples? Well, you feed the really rotten ones to the chickens to start. And then you make apple butter. Because no apple I’ve found makes better apple butter than the cloyingly sweet golden delicious. All that sugar caramelizes so beautifully it almost makes my teeth ache. In a good way. They’re so sweet, in fact, that you don’t have to add any sugar. Now that’s my kind of apple butter. You don’t even have to have “real food tastebuds” to appreciate the sweetness of this stuff.

I adapted this recipe from Liana Krissof’s book, Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry. In order for me to allow precious shelf space for a cook book, it had better be darn good. This one is darn fantastic. Delicious, innovative, low sugar canning recipes.

Apple Butter makes approx. 10 half pints or 5 pints

6 lbs cored, peeled, and roughly chopped sweet apples (approx. 8 lbs whole apples)
2 cups apple cider or water (I used water and it turns out just fine)
1.5 t ground cinnamon
0.5 t ground clove
0.5 t ground allspice
0.5 t ground aniseseed

  1. Place the apples in a 6 to 8 qt stainless steel or enameled pot. Add the cider and 4 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Boil for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are completely soft.
  3. Remove from heat, add the spices, and puree the apples with an immersion blender to your desired consistency (I like it super smooth).
  4. Dump the whole shebang into a 6 to 8 qt slow cooker and cook on LOW for 9-24 hours. Start tasting it at 9 hours and keep cooking until it’s how you like it.
  5. For a thicker apple butter, crank the heat up to HIGH for an hour or so with the lid propped open with a chopstick. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching.
  6. If you are planning on freezing the apple butter, let it cool to room temperature before putting it in freezer safe mason jars.
  7. To can the apple butter in a hot water bath, leave 1/2 inch of headspace and process for 10 minutes for both half pints and pint jars.

Notes on Equipment

Immersion Blender
This is the perfect recipe to justify your purchase of an immersion blender if you’ve been wanting one. I really can’t imagine pouring hot apple chunks and water into a blender without seriously injuring myself. This little workhorse is indispensable in my kitchen, and not just for canning tasks like apple butter and applesauce.

Slow Cooker
I can’t say how much I love slow cookers. Really. Love. My slow cookers. They are ideal for making stock, cooking those cheap but tough cuts of beef, and setting up a meal to be ready and hot when you get home from work. But some slow cookers have lead in the glaze, which can leach into your food. Especially acidic foods like chili and, yes, apple butter. Hamilton Beach is the only brand of slow cooker I know of that guarantees that they don’t use lead in their glaze. I currently have a 3 qt and an 8 qt. The 3 qt is nice for small batches of soup, chili, and stock. I’ve also used it to incubate yogurt, although now I prefer to incubate in glass. My 8 qt needs replacing as the stoneware has cracked and it is a Rival, meaning it may or may not have lead in the glaze. I think I’ll replace it with the 6 qt Hamilton Beach, which is big enough for a whole chicken or a batch of apple butter.

Apple Peeler, Slicer, Corer
I don’t generally like kitchen gadgets that only have one function – in this case, preparing apples. But if you’re going to be dealing with apples in bulk, whether canning, freezing, or drying, this really is the only way to fly. It more than pays for itself in time and effort, plus the kids love making “apple slinkies” and will usually ask to help instead of being asked. It’s a win-win.

This post is part of Hartke Is Online!’s Weekend Gourmet, Freaky Friday on Real Food Freaks, Seasonal Inspiration, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, and Tuesday Time Out, Traditional Tuesdays!

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