Last year, I dusted off my slow cooker and made my first batch of apple butter. While it tasted incredible, I realized (after the fact) that I cooked the apples way too long. I was left with a mere cup of apple butter from 5 pounds of apples. That sure was some thick, concentrated apple butter, let me tell you!
This time around, I did things differently. Mainly, I cooked it for a fraction of the time. Not only was it much, much faster, but I was left with five cups of creamy apple butter.
It’s also naked. Minimal spices, no sweetener. The blonde roast of apple butters! Most apple butter recipes call for 2-4 cups of sugar, but I wanted to make a batch without any sugar. Yes, sugar does help increase the shelf-life and also thicken, but my version seemed to turn out fine.
For this method, you only need a few ingredients:
1) Sweet + tart apples. For the best-tasting apple butter, use an equal mixture of sweet and tart apples. I used Granny Smith, Sunrise, Fuji, Honeycrisp, and Mac apples. Use any varieties you wish, the more the better. Each time you make apple butter, it will taste a bit different depending on the apples you use. Of course, local, in-season apples will make your apple butter even better (say that 5 times fast). I used 5.5 pounds of apples, but feel free to make a smaller batch if preferred (cooking time may vary).
2) Cinnamon. I used about 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon for this batch, but if you’d like a more flavourful and darker apple butter, add as much cinnamon as you prefer. You can also throw in cinnamon sticks as it cooks or try adding ground cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. Some people like to add a spice packet to the mixture. Just grab cheesecloth and add in whole spices and tie it with cooking string. It is very easy to remove this way.
3) Lemon Juice. I added a tiny bit of fresh lemon juice, to taste. This will help extend shelf-life a bit.
You can also add apple juice or sweet apple cider, but I didn’t bother for this batch.
I don’t find it needs any added sweetener when I use around 50% sweet apples, but feel free to add sweetener if your taste buds prefer. I like it a bit tart, with a light sweetness. When we cook down the apples, it concentrates the sweetness, so it will taste better as it cooks. A little bit of maple syrup would go a long way here.
How I made it:
As always, I’m giving you chatty detailed steps, photos, and tips, but the actual process is very easy. I like to talk, what can I say.
1. Slice apples. There is no need to peel the apples. In fact, your apple butter is much healthier with the peel left on. Don’t worry, we’ll blend it all up and you won’t even know the peel is in there. Tip: If you have an apple slicer, now is the time to use it. I love this OXO divider. Or if you have a food mill, I hear you can cook the apples whole and then run it through the mill. You make the call.
2. Set slow cooker on HIGH for 4 hours with the lid on. During those 4 hours, give it several stirs as the apples tend to stick to the bottom. You can add some apple juice or cider to prevent sticking. If you’d rather cook it longer on a low heat, you can do that too.
3. Mash apples and turn off heat. After 4 hours, most of the apples are soft enough to mash up with a wooden spoon or potato masher. After mashing, we now have applesauce (with the peel of course).
4. Cool slightly and scoop into high-speed blender. This step results in super smooth apple butter. Plus, we want to pulverize the apple peel. With a big ladle, scoop the apple mixture into a blender. If you have a small blender you may have to do this in a few batches. It all just fit in my Vitamix. Make sure lid is secured tightly or explosions may occur…
5. Blend the mixture. Start on a low setting and go faster until you reach max speed. You may need to let some steam escape through the top hole if there is one. Puree mixture until super smooth and buttery. If it’s still chunky, keep blending.
It will look similar to this after blending – it’s like the silkiest apple “sauce” you’ve ever tasted, but not quite thick enough for a butter yet!
6. Pour the apple butter back into the slow cooker. Turn heat on high and cook down, uncovered, for another 45-75 minutes until it’s as thick as you desire. After 45 mins, I was left with 5 cups and the consistency was very similar to my pumpkin butter. Keep in mind it will thicken very slightly once chilled overnight.
7. When ready, add cinnamon to taste. I didn’t add much so the colour of my apple butter stayed very light. You can also stir in a tiny bit of lemon juice now too, but this is optional.
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Of course, the best thing about making apple butter (next to eating it) is experimenting with different flavours. Try adding cinnamon sticks, freshly ground nutmeg and ginger, or even other fruit & veggies like pumpkin or pears. Next on my list might be a pumpkin apple butter hybrid…or apple pear…or butternut squash & pumpkin…hmm.
Homemade butters also make fun host/hostess gifts. Make it a couple days in advance and spoon into Mason jars with a cute ribbon and tag. I like to either write out the recipe or simply write the URL to the recipe if there isn’t enough room. I brought a jar over to my friend’s place last night and it was quite a hit!
I’m not certain how long this will last in the fridge since this is my first batch made this way. I will be sure to update this post with how long it lasts for me. If it’s anything like my pumpkin butter, it will hopefully last for at least 3 weeks in an air-tight jar in the fridge. As for canning or freezing, I haven’t tried it myself. For you canning pros out there – do you think this can be canned? As always, I appreciate your thoughts below!
For many ways to enjoy apple butter, see my pumpkin butter list.
What kind of fruit/veggie butter should I try next?