Few things beat the sweet apple flavor of apple butter throughout the fall and winter. Whether you spread it on toast, bake it into cookies or quick breads, make peanut butter and apple butter sandwiches, use it on pork, swirl it into cottage cheese or yogurt, or add it to the morning’s oatmeal, or give it as a Christmas gift, apple butter is an old fashioned treat modern taste buds appreciate. It’s also easy to make.
To make apple butter, you’ll need 2 dozen medium apples. Any apple that makes great applesauce also makes great apple butter, including Pippins, Gravenstein, and Gala. You can also mix together two types of apples for making apple butter.
In addition, you’ll need 2 quarts of sweet apple cider, 3 cups granulated sugar, 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon, and ½ teaspoon of ground cloves.
There are several methods of preparing apples for apple butter; I’ve tried them all, including using a food mill, pressing the apples through a sieve, and cooking the apples with or without skins. By far the easiest way, however, is to use an apple peeler/corer to core the apples, remove their skins, and slice them. (Leaving the skins on apples increases the nutrients in the finished apple butter, but it also increases the risk of bacteria, which is a concern if you want to can the finished product.) Then you can either use an old fashioned potato masher or an immersion blender to create pulp.
Finally, you’ll need a large pot and cooking spoon.
How to Make Apple Butter
Prepare the apples by peeling, coring, and slicing them. The slices don’t need to be thin or even. Dump the prepared apples into a large pot and add all the apple cider. On medium heat, cook the apples in the apple cider until the apples are tender.
Strain away the cider and mash the apples. Do not puree them.
Return the apple pulp to the large pot and place over medium heat. Watch the apples carefully from this point on, because they cook quickly and could burn if left to cook too long or over too high a heat. Once the apples thicken just slightly, add the sugar and spices. Cook over medium low heat and stir frequently until thick, about 1 hour.
Storing Apple Butter
At this point, you can allow the apple butter to cool, then pour it into freezer containers and freeze. Or, you may can it. Use a hot water bath canner and pour the hot apple butter into sterile jars, leaving ¼ in. headspace. Process 4 oz., pint, or quart jars for 10 minutes.
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