The making of Apple Butter is a tradition here in Southern Appalachia and this easy (but somewhat time-consuming) recipe will help you join in the custom. There is no “butter” in apple butter, that just refers to the consistency and its use as a spread on bread, biscuits and scones; it is a great addition as a fat substitute for reduced-fat diets and in vegan baked goods, too.
Recently, my friends, Jack and Donna provided me with a five-gallon bucket filled with apples from Jack’s mother’s tree. The apples are an heirloom variety that date back to the 1800’s; the best I can tell from looking at photos online, the apple tree is most likely a Newtown Pippin. The apples are green and kind of homely looking, with a sharp tart flavour and firm texture that make them perfect for baking, drying and for apple butter!
After having my dehydrator working for three days drying apples from the bucket that Jack and Donna brought to me, I decided to save a few to make some apple butter. You don’t have to have apples like these to make your own apple butter, any tart firm apple will work (Granny Smith’s would be excellent).
Apple Butter is different from apple sauce in that it is thicker; the thickening coming from reducing the purée by stirring. And stirring. And stirring some more. The stirring encourages evaporation which causes the thickening of the butter. Apple Butter is also seasoned with cinnamon and other spices, but the dark colour comes from the long cooking process, which causes the natural sugars in the apple purée to caramelize.
I prefer my Apple Butter to be a bit on the tart side, you could certainly sweeten yours more. My recipe calls for 1/3 cup of sugar per cup of purée, but you can add more to suit your tastes. You can also easily adjust your seasonings, too. I know many people who put ginger in their apple butter, I don’t since I cannot eat ginger. Use this recipe as a guide to create your own unique Apple Butter.
But, make some…it’s well worth the time…it is simply delicious and the perfect condiment for many fall dishes. Yes, autumn is approaching, so be ready for the flavours of fall with this Apple Butter in your pantry.
- 7 pounds of good cooking apples (a tart green apple is preferrable)
- 1½ cups apple cider vinegar
- 3 cups water
- Sugar (about 5 cups, see cooking instructions)
- 3 teaspoons cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¾ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 lemon, juice and zest
- wide 8-quart pan (Stainless steel or copper with stainless steel lining)
- A food mill or a chinois sieve
- canning jars 6-8 pint
- Cut the apples into quarters, do not peel or core them (much of the pectin is in the cores and flavor in the peels), remove any damaged parts by cutting them away.
- Place the quartered apple pieces into large non-reactive pot.
- Add the vinegar and water, cover, bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to simmer, cook until apples are soft, about 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat.
- Ladle apple mixture into a food mill, turning the handle to release the pulp into a large bowl (You may also use a chinois sieve. If using a chinois, use a pestle to force pulp from the chinois into a large bowl below).
- Measure resulting puree (My 7 pounds of apples yielded 16 cups of puree) and pour it back into the non-reactive pan..
- Add ⅓ cup of sugar for each cup of apple pulp.
- Stir to dissolve sugar.
- Add a dash of salt, the cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, nutmeg, lemon zest and juice. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
- On medium-low heat, cook the spiced puree uncovered, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
- Scrape the bottom of the pot while you stir to make sure the mixture is not sticking. The stirring also encourages evaporation as you want this mixture to reduce and thicken.
- Cook until thick and smooth (about 2 hours - I cooked mine a bit longer for a thicker consistency).
- Use a canning pot (with a rack on the bottom) filled about half way with water and bring the water to a full rolling boil.*
- Dunk your jars in the boiling water, filling them completely. Remove them from the boiling water and drain them top down on a clean, dry towel. (Or you can rinse out the jars, dry them, and place them, without lids, in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes.)
- Pour the cooked apple butter into hot, sterilized jars, leaving ½ inch of head space.
- Wipe the top edges of the jars with a clean cloth that has been dampened with hot water.
- Before applying the lids, sterilize the lids by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Place the lids and the rings on the jars, tightening the rings. Then, back the ring off ¼ of a turn.
- Place the sealed jars into the canning pot with boiling water, making sure the water covers the top of the jars completely.
- Place a lid on the canning pot and allow to boil for 15 minutes.
- Remove the jars from the boiling water and place on a dry towel to cool completely.
- You should hear the lids sealing (they will pop as they seal). After the jars cool, you can tell you have a good seal if the lids DO NOT pop if you press on the center of the lid.
- If you have a jar that has not sealed, you can refrigerate it, or you can remove the lid, clean the rim, replace the lid and hot water bath it again. Further processing will not harm the apple butter.