Fall is in the air. Leaves are turning, apples are ripe for the picking, pumpkins are appearing on doorsteps. It’s the season for all things apple!
I adore apple butter and I’ve discovered how really easy it is to make. What I love about this recipe, other than the warm fragrance of apples, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves filling my kitchen, is the fact you don’t have to peel a single apple. When you’re staring 6 pounds of apples in the face believe me, you’ll be glad not to have to peel them!
Apple butter is one of those simple, homey foods connecting us to generations of women who’d spend hours peeling and slicing apples and stirring big pots over the fire preserving something sweet and warmly spiced to chase away the winter chill. And oh, the sweet and spicy fragrance! All the homey, feel good spices bring sweet memories of the holidays flooding in with one deep inhale.
Apple butter. Just the name makes me think of a country kitchen and women in their starched aprons working together, making conversation and preserving foods as a community to sustain them through the dreary winter to come.
Preserving and canning is somewhat of a lost art but experiencing a resurgence recently. I’ve been doing home canning now for about 20 years and it’s easier than you think. Even if you don’t end up water bath canning your apple butter, make a batch and keep one for yourself and give the rest away. Your friends will thank you!
The wonderful thing about home canning is that it doesn’t take a lot of special equipment or a big expense to get started. There is a bit of a learning curve and you have to do things safely to avoid spoilage but really, it’s not that difficult.
Here’s my recipe for sweet and spicy apple butter. It’s inspired by one I found on the wonderful Food In Jars!
Cinnamon, clove and freshly grated nutmeg.
The apples are softening and the skin is loosening.
Remove the skins with a pair of tongs and place in a seive or mesh colander over a bowl. Press on the skins to remove as much pulp as possible.
Cooking down. You can stop here and can it as applesauce if you like.
Beautiful, homey and full of flavor – sweet and spicy apple butter!
Sweet and Spicy Apple Butter: Ingredients
- 6 pounds apples, any variety, organic if possible. I like using several varieties. I get the battered and bruised ones from the apple lady at the farmer’s market. They are perfect for apple butter!
- 3 cups apple cider
- 2 cups organic sugar, I use half brown sugar and half white
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 pieces star anise (optional)
Sweet and Spicy Apple Butter: Method
- Quarter and core apples. You can peel them if you like but I’ve found after boiling awhile, the peels separate and you can just lift them out with a pair of tongs. Saves a lot of time!
- Put the apples in a big pot with 3 cups of cider.
- Bring to a boil.
- Lower heat and let them cook about 30 minutes.
- The apples will be soft now and the skins will come off easily. Remove the skins from the pot with tongs.
- Put the skins in a sieve or mesh colander over a bowl. Press the skins with the back of a spoon to get as much pulp as possible. Be careful, the apple skins are hot. Pour the pulp back into the pot and discard the skins.
- Add the sugar and spices and bring to a boil.
- After boiling for a bit, you can remove the star anise if you used it. Then, use a potato masher or immersion blender to smooth out the lumps in the mixture. An immersion blender purees everything quickly.
- You can stop right here if you like and you will have wonderfully spicy applesauce. You can even leave out the spices if you want a plain applesauce.
- Cook down for 2 – 3 hours over very low heat until thick, stirring often to make sure the butter isn’t sticking. Use a diffuser if you have one. The butter will be a warm brown color.
- I recommend using a splatter screen. Apple butter is thick and it will sputter and pop quite a bit. If it lands on your skin it will burn like crazy!
- Now, it’s time to can in a rolling water bath, not a pressure cooker. Here’s a great website to check out that will give you the basics of canning. It’s calledSimple Bites and you will find an easy to follow description on the nuts and bolts of canning.
- Pour your apple butter into your perpared jars and process for 15 minutes for half pints and 20 minutes for pints.
- Yield=7 half pints
- If you aren’t going to can in a water bath, spoon the butter into clean and sterilized glass jars and store in the fridge. They make great gifts!
- You can also do this recipe with pears. No need to peel them.
- For applesauce, you can chunk up your apples with the skin on and cook them down. Add the sugar and spices if you’d like and use your potato masher or immersion blender to smooth everything out. You can remove the peels or not, your choice. You might add 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice to this if you like. Put your applesauce in jars and can.
- Feel free to replace the sugar with honey. Use half a cup to a cup according to taste.
- You can increase or decrease the spices according to your taste. I like spicy apple butter so I add a little extra!
- Slather on toast, muffins, popovers or scones. Use as a spicy condiment to roast pork. Or, add into any recipe that calls for applesauce, especially cakes and quick breads. This would be heavenly spread on banana nut bread!
- If you aren’t set up yet for home canning, you can still make a batch. Just make sure you’ve boiled your jars in hot water or run them through your dishwasher so they are super clean. Then just ladle the hot butter into the hot jars, put the lids on, let them cool and then refrigerate. You will have plenty to give away and your friends will be thrilled!