I love apple butter. It’s tasty, of course, but it’s not so much that I love to eat it, as I love to cook with it: I toss it into various muffins & quickbreads, Tai’s granola, the occasional meat glaze or braising sauce. In addition to its usefulness in the kitchen, butter is the easiest way to preserve a whole bunch of apples without a lot of effort: no peeling, no coring, no prep of added ingredients. It’s perfect for wild apples as well, little, misshapen, wrinkly and bumpy things that they are: just cut ’em in half, toss ’em in water, and cook. Push through a food mill, add little sugar, or maybe some honey, a few spices. Or maybe, just maybe, some booze.
If there is anything I love in the kitchen more than apple butter, it’s booze (well, and popcorn. chocolate. pumpkins. bacon. I’ll stop now.). And not just because it’s so lovely to drink. (No, seriously. Stop laughing.) Booze is a workhorse in the kitchen: deglaze a pan, braise a chicken, add zing to risotto, depth to tomato sauce, and an extra dimension to any number of fruit preserves. Alcohol also acts as a preservative, and as such lends itself to the very simpest preserving: 1) booze in jar, 2) add fruit, 3) wait, 4) instant cocktail!
In this recipe, not only does the bourbon add a depth of flavor, accented by the brown sugar and molasses, but it adds some needed liquid: when you drain away all of the juice, you need a small amount of liquid to add back to the pulp so that it will blend and cook down smoothly. Apple juice or cider works well of course, but: why not use booze? Why not, indeed.
And if there is anything I love more than apple butter and booze it is free apples! Thanks go to Julia of What Julia Ate for sending down some apples from her ‘hood, and to Kate of Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking for apple delivery services! Thanks so much, girlz: this apple butter is even more special because of you.
- about 5 lbs apples (I used a Stayman-Macintosh varietal, gifted to me by Miss Julia)
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- filtered water
- 1 cup dark brown sugar (I used Muscovado), lightly packed (7 oz)
- 1/2 cup bourbon
- 2 tbsp molasses
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- Wash & stem apples. Quarter and add to a large, wide stockpot (peels, cores & all) with 1 cup of cider vinegar. Add filtered water to just cover apples. Bring to a boil over high heat; cover pot, reduce heat to low and simmer until apples are soft and just beginning to break down, about 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve, lined with dampened cheesecloth, to collect juice. Reserve juice for this. Or this. Or maybe this. Push cooked apples through a food mill, or a fine sieve, to remove seeds & skins. At this point, you can store the apple pulp overnight and continue with the recipe the next day, if you like.
- Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Add bourbon, sugar, molasses and spices to apple pulp. Blend with an immersion blender, or in a food processor, until very smooth, then transfer to a large, wide preserving pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, and covered with a splatter screen, until butter thickens and will mound on a spoon (anywhere from 20 – 60 minutes depending on your level of heat, stirring, width of pan, etc.). Fill hot jars to 1/4-inch headspace, carefully remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, wipe rims, affix lids, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
This recipe yielded 9 cups of butter, which was much higher than I expected: I would typically get 5 – 6 cups from 5 lbs of apples.
- Essentially all of the alcohol in the bourbon is cooked off here; the bourbon flavor in the final butter is there, but there is no bite of ethanol. If you’d like a stronger bourbon flavor, I’d suggest cooking the butter down a bit past the thickness that you want, then stir in another 1/4 cup of bourbon just before canning.
- Because you’ve drained off the apple juice, this butter cooks faster than a typical recipe: if you plan to cook all day in a Crock-Pot while you are at work, you may want to add back a cup or two of apple juice, just in case.
Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.
Fall through winter.
This looks yummcious. I’ve never tried apple butter, but I should. It looks really really great.
This sounds WONDERFUL! Thanks for sharing, as I’ve got quite a cache of apples!
Looks heavenly – love your photos – so real and makes the food look delicious.
Okay I just made this. i didn’t get quite as much out of my apples, but it is the BEST apple butter I have ever made. Bar none. Thank you!
Yay! So happy you like it. And yes, I was kind of shocked by my yield on this one: I think the apple variety was just extra meaty.
How lucky to have such nice friends and with a splash of bourbon everything is right with the world. I hope Kate’s Chicago trip is as lovely as the one to visit you…
This looks SO fantastic. Looking forward to making it with Tuthilltown Bourbon 🙂
OMG this butter is amazing!! I normally do not like apple butter but I like this one. I switched out the bourbon for rum because it is what I had in the kitchen. And I added a touch more because well this batch of butter will be for the adults. I have the last 5 pounds of my bushel of apples cooking down right now to make another batch. But the next batch will be sans alcohol since well I plan to get my brother’s 6 year old to eat it. Thank you!! You turned me onto even apple sauce which I normally hate. I took your basic recipe and added pear cider, lots of vanilla beans and crystallized ginger to it and that one is all mine!
I was wondering if you could substitute regular apple cider for the apple cider vinegar?
The vinegar is there mainly to prevent the apples from browning while you are slicing & cooking. You can replace with fresh cider or with water if you don’t mind the browning (which won’t really show, as the butter is a deep brown; I just like to keep the apples as fresh as possible while slicing).
Thank you so much. I’ve made caramel apple butter and today it’s apple/pear butter and this sounds so good it’s on my list to do next.
We made ours from a variety of apple we picked. 5 lbs as per your recipe and cooked ours for houuuuuurrrssss till we got a pretty thick consistency in our croc pot. We ended up with only about 4.5 cups. Canning it now. Excited to taste.
Maybe it was the lack of a food mill or the fact that I halved the sugar, but I just got a little less two cups from this one. I DON’T CARE, though, because this is is bananas!
Could be that your apples were really juicy (as opposed to really fleshy) and most of the water in the juice cooked off. Apples yields, I find, can really vary with variety of apple, length of time since harvest, growing season, etc.
You still have time to tweak for another batch! 🙂
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This was incredible! I made a huge batch with 2-3 weeks worth of apples from my CSA. It went super well on waffles the next morning and then some gruyere later that afternoon.
Thank you so much for this recipe! I was trying to make apple butter for the first time with another recipe and I was not impressed at all, so I tried yours and WOW! Amazing! Thank you! Can’t wait to see these babies in Christmas baskets this year. I even bloggged about the whole thing if you are interested:)
Thank you again for a great recipe and keep blogging! I am an avid follower of your adventures:)
So glad you liked it, Maria! And I’m sure it will make a lovely Christmas gift (I know it is going in some of my baskets too).
Hands down the best apple butter ever. Wonderful recipe. I doubled it and yielded about 4 pints. Family will have some wonderful treats for the holidays.
I made applesauce earlier this year and used that. I used two quart jars of applesauce and doubled the rest of the ingredients. Used half spiced rum and half dark rum. Made 9 250ml jars. Looks great, thanks for the recipe!
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What size on the food mill do you recommend? I’m so excited to make this recipe today!
I typically use the medium disc on my food mill for almost everything. You could probably get away with the large disc since apple seeds & skins are big enough to be caught. Good luck with the recipe – let us know how it goes!
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I have waited all my life to make butters and sauces from my own apple and pear tress and this year was it! We own a hundred-year old farmhouse in an old mountain resort village called Mentone. For two years I really didn’t get much yield from my one apple and one pear tree, but this year I was up there just at the right time! So, for my virgin batch of apple butter I chose your recipe and it did not disappoint. I’ll admit I chose it because the bourbon caught my eye! We in the South LOVE our bourbon. I had pinned your blog earlier because I could tell you a) know what you are doing, and b) have some really cool recipes! Thank you, thank you, for making my “first time” so special.
Elaine in Alabama
I’m so glad to hear it, Elaine! And envious of your old farmhouse and fruit trees. 🙂 Glad your first time was a success!
This is the first time I’ve made apple butter, but I have made pumpkin butter in the past. First thing I would change is peeling and coring the apples, tie the leavings in cheesecloth, and boiling all together. It seemed to me a lot of flesh was left after putting thru a food mill. Don’t know what to do about my second problem. Even with a spatter shield, I ended up with this all over my stove, the floor and the wall adjoining my stove. My heat was pretty low – 3 on an induction stove. Took an hour and a half to get to a decent consistency. I used some pretty solid Fuji apples a friend had given me and I got 5-1/2 cups. Tastes pretty good, even tho I used rum rather than bourbon. If it just wasn’t so messy!
You can certainly peel the apples if you choose: I prefer the lazy food mill method.
It is a messy busy when cooked on the stove; there’s no getting around that. These days, I typically do not use the immersion blender until the very end of the cooking time, as that cuts down on the splatter. And I use the very lowest heat possible on my stove – also helps with the splatter. The cleanest method is probably to cook it in the Crock Pot, if you have one.