Apple butter is one of those foods that seem so daunting to those not in the know, but really apple butter is very easy to make. Nor does it take a lot of “special” ingredients. I’ve even made passable apple butter using store bought applesauce as the base, though starting from fresh apples will give you a much better product.
While apple butter is time consuming to make-it cooks for a couple of hours over low heat and needs to be stirred regularly or else it will burn-it also is very easy. So easy, in fact, that you don’t even need to peel or core the apples. Both peels and cores provide a good amount of pectin, which helps your apple butter to set up.
When making apple butter, I usually like to use a variety of apples to round out the flavor. At the very least, I like to use 1 tart variety of apple and one sweeter variety of apple. Often though, I will use 3-4 varieties. While their subtle nuances will be lost in the long cooking process, their more general attributes provide a great complexity of flavor.
You should get 10-14 1/2 pint jars of apple butter. More than enough to last throughout the year, with plenty left to use as gifts for the holidays.
8 pounds apples (try to use at least 2 varieties)
2 cups water
4-5 cups granulated sugar (more or less depending on your yield)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground clove
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
Cut apples into medium sized chunks, core and all. Place in a large, nonreactive stock pot along with water and cook over medium high heat until the apples turn to mush.
Place cooked apples in a food mill and force through, discarding peels, cores and seeds.
Measure apple puree and add 1/2 cup of granulated sugar to every cup of puree. Place apple and sugar mixture back into nonreactive stock pot, along with vinegar and spices. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring often, until done (about 2 1/2-3 1/2 hours). To tell if apple butter is done place a small plate in the freezer to chill. Test the apple butter by placing a dime sized mound of apple butter on the frozen plate and return to the freezer for 4 minutes. Apple butter is done if the mound holds its shape and no water separates from the apple butter forming a thin ring around the mound. At this point apple butter might not be completely smooth. I prefer it smooth so I then blend the mixture with a wand blender, cooking for another 10 minutes after blending to force out any air I might have added to the mix through the blending process.
While apple butter is cooking sterilize 12-14 1/2 pint canning jars, lids and rings. When apple butter is done, ladle into canning jars, leaving 1/2″ head space. Add lids and secure with rings. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove to a rack and allow to cool. It any lids don’t seal after 2-3 hours place the unsealed jars in the fridge and use up within a week.
Apple butter has many uses, from glazing carrots and winter squash, to becoming the base of a wintertime BBQ sauce, to accompanying a cheese course or as a filling for a tart, but my favorite way to enjoy apple butter is just to spread it on a hot biscuit that has first been smeared with butter. There’s nothing better!!!