I have two apple trees in my back yard. The apples did not ripen well in years past and so they were left for the deer, squirrels and various animals and insects. But this year, I finally noticed they were ripening and could be harvested. By the time I got to them, there was only about one giant bag of good apples but I brought them in and decided I should make apple butter.
Apple butter is a delicious kind of apple jam, which is made basically by making chunky apple sauce then adding a bit of sugar and spice and cooking it a good long time over low heat until it caramelizes. When it is done, it looks a lot like caramel sauce- a nice golden, glossy concoction that is just heavenly.
I have made it before, in a crockpot. Since I could throw everything in and let it cook for hours, this seemed a good choice for my apple butter endeavor.I did not weigh or actually measure out the apples. It is kind of a guess so use your own judgment in adding sugar and spice, but do add some. I also recommend adding the vinegar or lemon.
I am so glad I rescued that bag of apples. The apple butter was a tremendous success! I let my mom taste it by giving her a spoon to scoop the remnant out of the crockpot. She loves sweets, especially things that have little nutritious value like donuts. But as she scraped out every last bit of the apple butter, exclaiming how good it was, I said, “Well, I think you like apple butter even better than donuts!” She replied, “Donuts? What’s a donut?” I will be making another batch of apple butter soon.
Apple Butter in a Crockpot
About 8 cups of apples, cored and mostly peeled*
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1 cup apple juice or cider (or water or skip this, not everyone adds liquid)
¼ cup apple cider vinegar (May substitute 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice)
1 ½ cups brown sugar, more or less if desired
1 tsp. cinnamon
½- 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, optional (may substitute other spice)
¼ tsp. nutmeg, optional
Put apples in the crockpot along with cinnamon stick, cloves, juice or water and cider vinegar. Cook on high for about 2 hours then turn to low and cook for 8 hours or so until apples are very soft. Mash apples up a bit with spoon or masher.
Add 1 to 1 ½ cup sugar and other spice and taste a bit to see if you need more sugar or spice. Leave the crockpot on low for another 5-8 hours until apples are completely softened, and a nice caramel color is achieved. If the apple butter is very liquidy, leave the lid off and the crockpot on high for an hour or so. Or you could simmer on stove in another pan. Basically, the apple butter is done cooking when a ribbon drizzled over the surface keeps it shape.
Once it is all consistently thickened, you may let it cool a bit then blend with a hand-held Immersion blender or puree in batches in a regular blender. Or you could mash it with a masher or spoon. I like to pour the cooled apple butter into clean mason jars or plastic containers. If you are not going to consume it within a week, it may be frozen or you can give some away :-)Serve on biscuits, rolls, baguettes, or other bread or cakes. Stir into cake batter, ice cream or pumpkin pie filling. Add it to oatmeal or plain yogurt. Use it as a glaze for meats. Spread it on a ham, turkey, cream cheese or peanut butter sandwich. Or just eat it with a spoon J
*You can leave the peel and core and remove later after first cooking. If you have a food mill, you could grind everything up later, too. I like the ease of peeling first but I know the flavor may be more intense with the peel intact.