To look at a jar of applesauce and a jar of apple butter is like looking at day and night, but you can’t make apple butter without starting with applesauce. Apple butter is a highly concentrated form of applesauce – this is done by a long, slow cooking of the applesauce to the point where the sugar in the apples caramelizes turning the apple butter a deep brown, the cinnamon, cloves and allspice help in the rich brown color. Apple butter was a popular way of using apples in colonial America and well into the 19th century.
Apple Butter Recipe
9 quarts of applesauce – fresh or canned (see my Applesauce post from 9/21/11 for an easy to follow applesauce recipe)
2 Tbl ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
3 – 4 cups of sugar or you can use same amount of honey, stevia or frozen concentrated apple or white grape juice
Crock Pot (6 quart size – if yours is smaller that is ok)
Small sauce pot
Lid lifter or tongs
9 – 11 half pint canning jars or 5 – 7 pint size or a combination of each
Set up choptsticks
Large spoons and ladles
1 water bath canner
1. Place a dishtowel under the crock pot and fill the crock pot within one inch of the top with applesauce (about 5 – 5 1/2 quarts) – you will use the remaining applesauce in a later step. If your crock pot is smaller that 6 quart still fill to within one inch of top.
2. Add the cinnamon, cloves, allspice and 2 cups of the sugar and then stir to incorporate throughout.
3. Cover the crock pot loosely – you want the steam to be able to escape this is what helps it to thicken and cook down. I place chopsticks on the crock pot and then lay the cover on top of those. I usually start this after dinner. Turn the heat on high for about 1 hour, then turn to medium for 2 – 3 hours and then to low and allow to cook. Since I start this after dinner it cooks overnight and I am greeted with the best smell when I get up in the morning. It will need to cook between 12 – 18 hours. You don’t need to stir, but you can and I do – just to make sure it is not burning and to prevent a skin from forming on top.
4. In the morning check the butter, once it has cooked down to about 1/2 of what you started with you will then add the remaining applesauce and another 1 – 2 cups of sugar – I use 1 cup. If your crock pot was not 6 quarts – just fill the crock pot again to within one inch from the top. Make sure to stir the sugar in completely.
5. Let it cook for another couple of hours, this allows the flavor to mix with the applesauce just added. I usually let it cook for another 2 – 3 hours.
6. About 1 1/2 hours before I am ready to fill the jars – wash the jars in hot, soapy water and the sterilize in the water bath canner (or you can use a dishwasher). Once the water has come to a boil, turn off, but let the jars stay in the water.
7. About 30 minutes before you are ready to start filling the jars – place a dishtowel on the counter and take the jars out of the bath water. Turn the bath water back on, so that it is boiling when you are ready to put the filled jars back in. This is when I heat the jar lids in small pot of water – once the water boils turn the heat off, but keep the lid on.
8. Turn the crock pot off. If you want the butter smoother, use a handheld blender at this point. If you do not own one, make sure that the applesauce you are putting in is smooth. I don’t do either – I like a chunk of apple every once in awhile – but it is what you prefer.
9. Fill the jars to within 1/4″ of the top. Take the lids out of the water, making sure the tops of the jars are clean, put the lids on and then screw the rings on.
10. Place the jars into the boiling bath water and boil half pint jars for 5 – 7 minutes and pint jars for 10 minutes, start timing after the water has come back to a boil. Once the jars are ready to take out, use the jar grabber, if not using the lifting rack. Place them on the dishtowel and wait for them to seal, sometimes they have sealed but the lid has not sucked down, press down and if it does not pop up it is sealed. If they still have not sealed turn them over for about 15 – 20 minutes and they should seal – if not refrigerate (once cooled) and use within 2 – 3 months. The sealed jars have a shelf life of 18 months to 2 years.