Y’all, know I have an obsession with fruit jams, jellies, and spreads. Apple butter and peach jam are favorites here, and I love making and canning my own. This year, I figured since my friend and I picked a box of apples, I wanted to try my hand at making apple butter. Did you see the applesauce? I did a lot of googling and it was interesting to see what I was getting into. I need to tell you – are you sitting down? While this recipe does use the crockpot, the full cooking time on this is shy of 24 hours. Twenty. Four. Hours. 24 Hours, y’all.
I spent lots of time googling exactly how to make apple butter, and just like applesauce, there are thousands of recipes and a bunch of options:
Skin off or on?
Food mill, emulsion blender, or food processor?
Added sugar or no sugar?
Spices or no spices?
8 hours or 24 hours?
Pectin or no pectin?
I’ve seen recipes where people do it 8 hours on high, but no, don’t do that. The basis for apple butter, is that the sugars caramelize over time and give that dark brown color and a delicious flavor. It’s the same theory as caramelizing onions… it takes a little while for brown food, and brown food is good food. Cooking them for 8 hours on high… that’s like cooking a slab of ribs so they’re brought to temperature. Sure, they’re safe to consume, but they’re not ready. Don’t do that to yourself.
I don’t have a food mill or a strainer that fine to catch the tiny bits, and I didn’t really believe the skin would cook down that much (read: I got nervous), I left out a lot of the sugar, and opted for no pectin or spices. I am giving these jars for Christmas gifts, so I wanted a recipe that kindof would be good for a majority of people. And also, fool proof. My recipe is at the bottom, so you can easily save, print, and share it.
Apple Butter Directions
Begin by quartering and coring your apples. I used an apple corer and then peeled the skins off. If you don’t want to peel it or even core it, just toss them in there. When I make apple butter again, I will probably leave those skins on and see how it works out. I’ll also do twice as many apples and run two crockpots, because the apples cook down to literally nothing, so it’s safer to go big than go home with an inadequate amount of apple butter.
Add your apples and liquid to your crockpot and turn it on low and let it hang out for 8 hours.
8 hours later, you’ll have this falling-apart-almost-applesauce texture of delicious smelling apples.
Grab your blender, emulsion blender, food mill, whatever you want – and mix it up, so it’s as smooth as you can possibly get it. Return it to the crockpot if you’ve taken it out, and add your sugars and spices. It’ll have reduced to half the pot if your pot was full. Depressing, I know.
Stir in your spices and sugars well, and put the lid back on for another 10 hours on low. Seriously, 10 hours. I let mine go on low overnight, and when I woke up, it had thickened up nicely. Do a taste-test and see how it tastes, and adjust it accordingly.
Put the lid back, and press on. Stick with me, here. You want this apple butter to be thick and rich, so if you stop now, you’re not going to have the thickness you need. You could stop if you’re impatient, but really you’ve come so far… don’t stop now!
So far your total cooking time is up to 18 hours.
Now is when things get interesting, it’s time to reduce and thicken. Keep the crockpot on low and vent the lid. Your apple butter will start to bubble a bit and could spatter – if this molten sugar hits your skin, you’ll be burned, so keep the pot covered and prop the lid. If you close the lid all the way, you’ll create more liquid from the trapped steam, thus prolonging your process. Use some skewers or spoons to keep the lid open about an inch or so.
Low and slow, for another 3-4 hours. Stir it occasionally as it cooks now, to make sure its not caking up on the sides as it reduces. It’ll get stickier, and gooey, and just amazing. It’ll just keep reducing. The more time the sugars caramelize, the darker your apple butter, and the tastier.
The home stretch!! The final hour, you’ll wanna put it on high, and bring it home. Keep the lid over it, and stir it and scrape the sides and the bottom.
After the hour, you can turn the heat off, and let it cool and stop bubbling, then either proceed to can it…
…or just put it in a container and set it in the fridge…
…or just start to eat it. With a spoon.
If you’re canning, get those jars and canning pot ready.
If you’re new to canning, I will tell you this: Don’t be intimidated by the idea of canning!! It’s simple. Here’s your little canning crash course! To get some background knowledge on canning, recipes, and specific directions, visit Ball’s freshpreserving.com! I find it super helpful and it’s got amazing information.
Ready your jars, lids, rings, and water bath. The jars and parts need to be sterilized in the dishwasher, or cleaned in hot soapy water. If you have older jars, keep the lids in warm water, but if you have new jars you can leave them dry – the seal is different and more pliable on newer jars so this isn’t necessary. The jars I leave in warm water (or inside the hot dishwasher), otherwise, they could burst with the temperature differences of the counters, food, and the jars themselves. I sometimes use a kitchen towel under my jars, if you have marble or granite you’ll definitely want that layer of insulation to prevent breaking jars. And oozing apple butter. And you’ll do lots of crying.
Canning Pot: Make sure your pot of choice has enough room in it to cover your jars with at least 2″ of water and has enough room for water to boil freely with a lid on. You don’t necessarily need a special canning pot or rack, just a big ol’ pot. Fill the pot, and let it simmer gently until your jars are ready to process.
Fill: Put your funnel in the jar and fill the jar up to 1/4″ from the top. Different foods call for different headspaces, so make sure you look it up first if you’re doing something else.
Clean: Wipe the rim and threads of the jars clean with a damp paper towel or clean rag, put the lid on top, and GENTLY screw the ring on so it’s fingertip tight. It’s called “fingertip tight” because you aren’t tightening the ring crazy tight; you need to leave a tiny space for air to release from the jar as it’s cooling after being processed. If it’s on too tight or too loose, you’ll be sad face. Make like Goldilocks, and get it just right.
Processing: After your jars are ready to go, you have options here for processing them: water bath or pressure canning. I tried pressure canning, and I had a lot of problems, so I stick with using a water bath for my jars.
If you don’t have a rack to put inside your pot for the jars to sit on, you’ll want to put a dishtowel at the bottom so your jars don’t jiggle around too much. I use a flour sack towel, and just fold it up and put my jars on top.
Take your jars, and use canning tongs (or jar tongs) to lift and place them in the pot. Arrange them, and put the lid on, and let them boil away for 15 minutes. Different foods have different times, so if you’re doing another food, you’ll want to check the chart or recipe you’re using.
Stand & Seal: After time is up, turn off the heat and let the jars stand in the water for an additional 5 minutes. Remove the jars with the tongs and let them sit undisturbed for 12-24 hours. As they begin to cool, you’ll hear a chorus of pings as the lids seal. It’s the best sound ever!! Most of my jars sealed within 30 minutes, but a couple took longer. Gently press on the tops of the lids to make sure they’re sealed after they’ve sat. If the lids don’t flex or they flex and stay down, they’re sealed. But, if you can flex the lids and they bounce back up, just keep that one in the fridge for up to 3 weeks, or you can immediately reprocess the jar.
Store: Once sealed, these can stay on the shelf or in your pantry for 6 months to 1 year.
See, picking your own fruit is perfect for preserving, so you have have delicious fruits in the off season, but also because they make amazing gifts. You can preserve fresh fruit using honey and water (we did peaches as well, and that was insanely simple), so you’ve got fresh goodies all winter long, or use them for pies, ice cream, gifts, lunches, whatever. Your possibilities are really endless!