As usual, life is racing by this holiday season. I made it through the first round of my newest project, A Delish Dish Homemade Holiday, with more than 150 jars of jam, jellies, and preserves sold by Thanksgiving! Pictured above is an Instagram photo of my full line of homemade goodies from Thanksgiving (follow me @KitchenBitch), and I’ll be swapping in some new favorites for Christmas, like Christmas Plum Conserve, Apple-Jalapeno Jelly, Blueberry Maple Butter (hello, pancakes!), Fig Strawberry Jam with Balsamic Vinegar, and my first-ever low-sugar preserve for those with diabetes, Mixed Berry Apple Spread. I make everything myself in small batches, and the 4 and 8 oz. sizes are perfect for gift giving! Click here to download the new order form!
One preserve that no one can seem to get enough of is Spiced Apple Butter, and it’s fairly easy to make your own at home, although it takes many hours in a slow cooker or Dutch oven to achieve the desired color and thickness. Funnily enough, apple butter has no actual butter in it. Nope, it’s just plain old apples, made into apple sauce and cooked very slowly with sugar and spices until it melts into a gorgeous, thick, spreadable butter.
And, if you’re going to spend some time on it, you might as well (in my opinion) go double or nothing and have a huge batch of apple butter that will last you through the coming winter. Yes, it’s messy, but enlist a friend to make it a fun weekend project. The recipe below is for a single batch, but you can easily double it and then preserve it in a boiling water canner in batches, OR you can simply ladle the apple butter into jars and refrigerate for 2-3 months or freeze for up to a year.
And the beautiful thing about apple butter is that it’s not just for spreading on toast or bagels, it’s also great for stirring into oatmeal, cottage cheese, or yogurt; slathering on sandwiches; as a glaze mixed with mustard for pork or ribs; as a substitute for up to half the fat in cakes, muffins, and cookies; and as a frosting in between layers of spice cake.
I’m such a nerd but I have to say it: How about them apples???
I list several methods for making apple butter below. I actually use a combination of the slow cooker and stove top methods for my apple butter, because one of my slow cookers can’t seem to achieve the dark, thick butter I’m looking for. So, after 8-10 hours in the slow cooker, I move my apple butter to the stove top to finish cooking for about 30-60 minutes, or until it reaches a nice thick consistency that mounds on a spoon.
Spiced Apple Butter
This recipe is from Canning for A New Generation by Liana Krissof. Instead of canning, you can refrigerate the butter for 2-3 months, or freeze for up to a year. If you don’t have a food mill or Squeezo strainer, you’ll need to peel and core the apples before you start. You can puree the butter a second time with an immersion blender to achieve an ultra-smooth butter. Yield: About 6 half-pints or 3 pint jars. Click here to download the handy printable PDF.
6 pounds apples, cored and peeled only if necessary, cut into quarters
2 cups apple cider or water
About 1½ cups sugar
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground aniseed (optional)
- Put the apples in a 6- or 8-quart heavy-bottomed pan. Add the cider and 4 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the apples are completely broken down and the peels have separated from the pulp, 30 to 40 minutes.
- Pass the mixture through a food mill to remove the peels and cores. (Or, if the apples are already peeled, puree it in batches in the food processor or blender). Measure the puree.
- For the stovetop: Rinse out the pan and return the puree to it. Add 2 tablespoons sugar per cup of puree, and add the spices. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring somewhat frequently with a wooden spoon, for several hours, until the puree is dark and thick enough to mound on a spoon. You should be able to dollop it on a plate and no liquid will seep out from the dollop.
- For the slow cooker: Pour the puree into a slow cooker, and stir in the sugar and spices. (Puree with immersion blender if desired.) Cook on the low setting with the lid propped up or set askew to allow the liquid to evaporate for 9 to 12 hours, stirring occasionally when you can, until thick and dark. (Keep in mind different slow cookers cook at different temperatures.)
- For canning: Bring the apple butter to a boil (you can turn the slow cooker on high for 10-15 minutes, or transfer the butter to pot to achieve this). Ladle hot apple butter into hot jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Remove the jars from the canner, and do not disturb for 12 hours. After 1 hour, check to see that the lids have sealed, and immediately refrigerate any jars that haven’t sealed.