What the heck is apple butter?

If you’re following me on Facebook (if you’re not, you should), then you know that I have a small apple tree in my front yard. It’s adorably tiny, but it grew a good amount of apples this year. So much, in fact, that I was able to make and can 6 jars of apple butter! I also boiled down the cores and peels to make 14 cups of apple “juice” (not for drinking, but more about that later).

So what is apple butter? If you’re not into canning, you might not have seen it before. For some reason, it’s not sold in most stores. This is a real shame, because apple butter is AMAZING. There’s no actual butter involved, so I honestly don’t know why it’s called that (apart from the fact that butter is delicious and so is this). Apple butter is what you get if you let apple sauce cook for a long, long time. It’s a concentrated, smooth puree of cooked apple goodness. It’s like a smooth, creamy apple jam. So how do you make it?

To start your apple butter journey, you need apples. Obviously. The only other required ingredient is sugar (and to be honest you might not need it if you have really sweet apples). I also like to add spices to give it some depth. I used cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice in this batch. I don’t measure anything for apple butter, because the ingredients will vary depending on the type of apple you use. My apples are tart, so I used more sugar than you might need to if you use a sweeter variety.

Step 1: Prepare your apples. Peel, core, and cut them into small pieces. Bigger pieces are OK, but will take longer to cook down. (SAVE YOUR PEELS AND CORES! Cover them with water in a big pot and simmer until the cores are soft. You can use the resulting strained liquid to make a delicious apple jelly.) And yes, I know these don’t look like apples. I have no idea what kind of tree we planted, but it makes apples that are pink on the inside. Weird, but delicious.

Step 2: Put the apples in a pot and add some water. You don’t have to be exact. We’re really just adding water so that the apples don’t burn while you’re waiting for them to release their own juices as they cook. If you add too much, just let it cook longer to reduce. You can always add more as you go if needed. Just make sure there’s always liquid at the bottom while the apples are cooking.

Step 3: Cook it. We don’t need it to be boiling here, but a nice simmer would be good. Stir frequently to make sure there’s enough water. Add more water if it starts to look too thick. Let it go until you have a pot of mush. It’ll get darker in color as you go. 

Step 4: Once it’s looking saucy, add your sugar. I like brown sugar for its depth of flavor, but any sugar will work. Add a little at a time, and keep tasting until it’s where you want it. Now is also a good time to add any spices you might want (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and even ginger are all good options). Again, just add a little at a time. It’s easier to add more than it is to fix it if you’ve added too much.

Step 5: Mash, blend, sieve and/or puree until you’re happy with it. I used an immersion blender for mine. We’re going for a buttery smooth texture. Now is your last chance to get it the way you want it. Add more water if it’s too thick, or cook longer if it’s too thin. You’re looking for something that’s a spreadable consistency. Remember that it’ll thicken up a little bit when it cools, so go for a pudding-type thickness. When you’re stirring, it’ll look almost glossy. Usually it’ll be a kind of creamy light caramel color. Mine came out a little more red than is typical because of my weird pink apples. (this video is terrible quality, sorry)

When it’s done, process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. It’s spectacular on toast, English muffins and biscuits. It can also be added to homemade sauces and marinades for cooking meats (pork or BBQ are classic options). Give it a try!

3 Replies to “What the heck is apple butter?”

      1. Probably won’t happen… I used to make applesauce, but Scott and I were the only ones that liked it. The boys like it with NO chunks of apple. I’ve not made it in years.

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