My producer and co-conspirator for this site and the series is from the Midwest. Apparently, Midwesterners have very strong feelings about what is considered proper apple butter. After trying several products claiming to be apple butter in an effort to quell an apple butter craving, she deemed that all “western” apple butters were frauds. Distraught, and still suffering from severe apple butter cravings, she turned to her relatives to provide an authentic apple butter recipe. The only solution was to make our own.
This led to an apple-picking adventure. After all, if we’re going to make authentic apple butter, we might as well have the full experience of picking our own apples, right? We picked Braeburn apples; not for any special reason other than they were the variety offered at the you-pick farm.
Thus, armed with our you-pick Braeburn apples, Sarah Gibson’s apple butter recipe, and a supplement of Granny Smith apples to round out the flavor, we set out on our very first apple butter making extravaganza.
Here’s what that looked like.
Peel and core apples, then cut them into chunks. They don’t have to be small – they’ll cook down.
Mix sugar and spices until combined.
Set your slow cooker to low. Make sure it’s a good-sized slow cooker. 12 raw apples take up a lot of space! Fill your slow cooker with the apple pieces and pour the sugar/spice mixture on top. No need to mix – it will all blend together as it cooks. Don’t add the vanilla yet – you’ll do that in 10 hours.
This takes a little planning. 12 hours of cooking time can bite you in the rear if you don’t plan it right. So, unless you want to get up at 3am to tend to the apple butter, I suggest either starting it early in the morning so it’s done that night, or starting it in the evening so it cooks while you sleep.
Here’s where I messed up. I was SO excited to see the final results, I completely forgot to photograph what it looks like after 12 hours in the slow cooker. So, let me try to explain it to you in word pictures. Your apples will have cooked down, and the volume in your slow cooker will be 2/3 to 3/4 less than what it was when you started. The mixture will also look very brown, even shriveled. But don’t despair. When you start blending, you’ll see the magic happen.
With an immersion blender, blend the apple butter until it is completely smooth and there are no apple chunks left. This will take several minutes. The mixture will be thick, and will thicken a little more as it cools.
Fill pint canning jars. I use a tool specifically designed for canning jam to fill the jars. It’s not necessary, but it helps me fill the jars neatly, without getting apple butter all over the outside of the jar and all over my counter.
This recipe makes enough apple butter to fill six pint jars. Which means you can keep one or two jars for yourself, and give the others away. Your friends and family will think you’re the greatest person on the plant. Or, keep them all for yourself. I won’t judge.
Final verdict? “We did it!” was Malinda’s exclamation upon tasting the finished apple butter. Finally, authentic apple butter, just like home. It is great on toast, English muffins, biscuits, ice cream, or drizzled over applesauce spice cake. (Check this website for the recipe for applesauce spice cake.)
Here’s the complete recipe. Enjoy!
6-ish pounds of apples (about 12 apples – 6 Granny Smith, and 6 of any other variety)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1) Peel and core apples, and chop into chunks.
2) Mix sugar and spices until combined.
3) Place apples chunks into slow cooker. Pour sugar spice mixture on top.
4) Cook covered in slow cooker on low for 10 hours.
5) Remove lid. Add vanilla. Cook an additional two hours uncovered.
6) Blend with an immersion blender until concoction reaches classic apple butter consistency.