I’ve made apple butter each autumn for three years in a row now. It’s truly a labor of love, as I don’t really like cooked apples (with one notable exception) of any variety. I make applesauce, for my friend Christina, for the many, many babies in my life, and for baking. I make apple pies for friends, holidays and for Tai. Apple butter is definitely the most labor-intensive of all of my apple-preserving tricks, due to the seemingly endless stirring, but Tai’s grandmother loves it, so… apple butter it is, every year.
There are a couple of different ways to make apple butter. Essentially, you start with apples, make applesauce, then cook it down (and down, and down) until it is smooth, creamy and of a butter-like consistency (hence the name – there is no actual butter in apple butter). In this recipe, you do not peel or core the apples (which saves some labor), but you do put the applesauce through a food mill. Sometimes I’m not in the mood to peel, sometimes I’m not in the mood to deal with the food mill. An apple butter for every mood! This recipe is great for when you have lots of tiny apples, like wild apples, crabapples, or the leetle, baby, Stayman Winesaps that Tai & I picked at Fishkill Farms. That way you don’t have to peel and core 20 apples to yield 5 lbs of apple flesh, you get lots of flavor and pectin from the skins and cores, and the yield of usable apple flesh is higher than if you used an apple corer on those little babies.
According to the instructions in Putting Food By, you can also cook apple butter down in the oven, without stirring. I’ve never tried it, as generally it’s been too warm to want to keep the oven on for 3-4 hours, but I may give it a shot next. Stay tuned!
Adapted from Apple Butter by Elise at Simply Recipes
No Peel ‘Em Apple Butter
- food mill or chinois
- canning supplies
- 5 lbs apples (I used organically grown Stayman Winesap from Fishkills Farms), scrubbed well
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 and 1/2 cups unsweetened apple juice (or water)
- 1/2 cup local honey
- pinch of salt
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- zest and juice from 1 lemon
- Add the vinegar and apple juice to a large stockpot. Quarter the apples, but do not peel or core them; the peels and cores contain a lot of the natural pectin and will help to firm up the consistency of the butter. Add the apples to the stockpot as you chop, tossing occasionally to prevent browning.
- Bring the pot, covered, to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the apples are soft, mushy and just beginning to disintegrate, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly, then, working in batches, push the cooked apples through a food mill (medium grate) or chinois.
- Return the apple pulp to the stockpot. At this point, I usually choose to reduce the apple pulp by about half before adding any of the other ingredients. This allows you to slow-reduce, over very low heat, only stirring once every 30 minutes or so (adding sugar or honey at this point will make the mixture stickier and require more stirring). It took about 3 hours to reduce the volume of apple pulp by half (at which point I covered it and went to bed, to continue the next morning). You can skip this step and go directly to Step 4, albeit with the understanding that there will be a lot more stirring involved.
- Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Add the honey, spices, salt, lemon juice and zest to the apple pulp. Mix well, or if you want a really smooth butter, now is a good time to give it a blend with an immersion blender. Now comes the tough part: stir. And stir, stir, stir. Stir some more. Stir until your shoulder aches, your hand cramps, you switch to your left hand, you beg your husband to take a turn. Stir. Stir constantly, over medium-low heat, scraping the bottom to prevent burning, for a couple of hours, or until the butter is thick, smooth and spitting lava-hot blobs of butter at your hands. (I recommend a long-handled wooden spatula, with a flat bottom for scraping, and an oven mitt to protect from burns.) You can test the texture by putting a small dollop on a chilled plate; the butter should hold it’s shape on the plate and no liquid should seep off of the dollop.
- Pack hot apple butter into hot, sterilized jars to 1/4-inch headspace. It’s especially important with this viscous butter that you stir to eliminate any air pockets trapped in the middle of the jar or along the sides. Wipe rim well, afix lid and band, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
- Go get a massage. You deserve it!
Yields about 4 cups.
- This butter is not overly sweet, and in fact has a distinct tang from the vinegar and lemon. Because the apple peels and cores are cooked in with the pulp, the apple flavor comes through quite beautifully, so be sure to choose apples that are flavorful and that you like. If you prefer a sweeter butter, increase the honey by up to 1 cup, or substitute up to 4 cups of sugar (which will increase yield and somewhat decrease cooking/stirring time).
- The same basic recipe would work well with pears.
Canned, in a cool dark spot for up to 1 year. Refrigerated, up to 3 months.
Fall through winter.