It wasn’t until two years ago that I had my first taste of homemade apple butter. I was visiting my grandmother who was cleaning out her refrigerator for a road trip across the country. Since I just happened to be there that day, she sent me home with a bag full of refrigerator goodies. There were various fruit preserves, pickles, condiments, and among them, the apple butter.
Between my fiancé and me, the jar didn’t last very long. We loved it, and ate it on toast every morning. After it was gone, we tried to replace it with a jar of the store-bought version, but it wasn’t the same in taste or consistency. We knew that if we wanted the same apple butter my grandmother gave me, we were going to have to learn how to make it ourselves.
Luckily, my fiancé’s family has apple trees, and they were generous enough to let us bring home 40 pounds of fruit over the summer. We both immediately knew that these apples were destined for homemade apple butter. What we didn’t realize was that 40 pounds of apples yields a lot of product, which is great if you plan on gifting it out to your friends and family over the holiday season.
You can double or halve this recipe, but always make sure that you keep the proportions the same so that you are within safe pH levels. As for the spices, feel free to adjust the amounts to suit your tastes.
• 4 lbs apples
• 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
• 1 1/2 cups water or apple cider
• Around 4 cups sugar
• Freshly squeezed lemon juice of one small lemon
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1. Wash, quarter, stem and seed the apples, cutting off any overly damaged parts. Place in a large, non-reactive pot. Add the cider vinegar and the water/apple cider, and turn heat on high, stirring occasionally. Once the liquid begins to boil, lower the heat to medium and continue to stir the apples every five minutes or so until they are soft and mushy. This process generally takes 20-30 minutes.
2. Run the softened apples through a food mill. Measure out the milled apple sauce, and return to the pot. Cook on medium heat until the sauce begins to bubble, and then reduce heat to medium-low. Keep the lid off so that the water can evaporate out.
3. Add 1/2 cup sugar for every cup of apples (4 pounds of apples generally yields about 8 cups of sauce after milling). Add the spices, salt, and the juice of one small lemon. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
4. Stir frequently, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to prevent burning. Cook for around 3 hours until the sauce has darkened and reduced. Test to see if the apple butter is done by dropping a small amount onto a plate. If a liquid ring does not form around the edges, the apple butter is ready to be canned.
5. Sterilize jars and lids by following the guidelines outlined at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Fill jars with the apple butter, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe down the rims and place sterilized lids on the jars, securing tightly with bands. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, starting your timer after the water begins to boil again.
6. Remove jars and cool on a wire rack for 24 hours. Once cool, remove the bands and check the seals. Store jars in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months with the bands off to ensure that the seal remains tight.
To gift your jars out to your friends and family for the holidays, screw on bands and dress your jars with 6″ circles of butcher paper or fabric scraps. Secure with twine or embroidery floss, and add your favorite labels from MOL. For my apple butter jars, I chose the Provencale diamond labels and small diamond hang tags in the color spice.
As my tags suggest, apple butter is delicious when eaten on toast. There are, of course, all sorts of ways one might use it in various baking experimentations. Feel free to be creative!