As many of you know, one of the things on my 30 before 30 list was to learn how to can. I know what you’re thinking. My friend summarized it well when she exclaimed, “You made this?? That’s so…..white of you!!” I know, right?? Well, it’s not really Asian. Unless it is…and I don’t know it yet…
Anyways, I went a bit overboard this past fall in making apple butter. Just a teensy bit.
It all began with a romantic date with my handsome husband one beautiful fall day in October. First, we stopped by the pumpkin patch at Live Oak Canyon in Yucaipa to pick out some decor for our front porch.
After hitting the pumpkin patch, we drove the windy road up to Oak Glen, CA and hit the apple orchards, to go apple-picking, but also to try some famous apple cider donuts from Snow Line Orchards.
(By the way, if you go to Mom’s Country Orchards, you NEED to try the unsweetened pumpkin butter and the course dijon honey habanero mustard. I guarantee you will be bringing both home with you!! I dream about the honey habanero mustard…)
Now I’d been wanting to make apple butter since the previous fall, but all of the orchards had an early frost that ruined most of their crop, so we made sure to head up to the orchards earlier in the season.
We ended up at a lovely orchard called Mom’s Country Orchards. And there actually is a “Mom” there, who works there with her kids! Let me tell you, Snow Line had the donuts, but Mom’s had the hospitality!
Since it was my first time canning, I had so many questions, which she patiently answered, even though there was a long line growing behind me. An added bonus, they pack their bushels and pecks (and hugs around the necks!) so you’re getting extra for what you’re paying for. They win the Asian vote!
Now I had no idea what I was getting myself into the first time around. I think we bought a half peck (about 7 lbs) of their specialty Spartan apples, which are crisp, not too tangy, and not too sweet. A really delicious eating apple! The price of the apples was a bit steep at I believe $12, and to my disappointment, they only yielded 4 jars of apple butter. Which were delicious! But pricey at $4/jar (including the price of the jar).
I wanted to make a bunch to give away as presents, but didn’t want to pay so much for the apples. Then I remembered the bins of “ugly” apples on the side of the orchard, “seconds” I think is what they call them, which would be perfect for apple butter since it was going to get cooked down anyways. So I called and found out that a half bushel (roughly 25 lbs…that’s a LOT of apples!!) was only $15. THAT, my friends, is quite a steal of a deal and pretty hard to pass up!
“Okay, this is a nice story and all, but just hurry up and tell me how to make apple butter!!” Alright, alright, I’m getting there!!
I used the All Day Apple Butter recipe from allrecipes.com, except I tweaked it a bit to suit my tastes. I used a third of the sugar the recipe called for because honestly, unsweetened apple butter is pretty sweet as it is.
Here’s what you’ll need to make 16 jars of apple butter (you can do the math to suit the size of the batch you’d like to make):
- 16 pint-sized jar, lids, and rings
- water bath canning equipment
- slow cooker and possibly a large pot
- 22-25 lbs apples, cored, peeled, and finely chopped
- 3 cups of sugar
- 3 tablespoons of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon salt
Start by washing the apples.
Next, peel, core, and slice the apples. Let me tell you, if you’re making a crazy batch like I did, heck, even if you’re only making a small batch, an apple peeler/slicer/corer is MONEY. Not only does it do all three at one time instead of needing to peel each apple, then core it, then slice it, but it is relatively inexpensive at $20 and it saves your SANITY. Plus, it comes in really handy for making apple pies! :) You can find them on amazon.com.
It helps if you enlist someone to help you chop. RJ was sweet enough to plop in front of the tv, turn on Netflix, and help me chop 25 lbs of apples for an evening!
When the apples are all chopped, place as much of the apple as you can in the slow cooker and the rest in the large pot. For smaller batches, a slow cooker should be sufficient.
Mix together the sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves, and salt, and divide it between the slow cooker and pot. It doesn’t have to be perfectly divided according to ratio since the two will eventually merge into one pot.
Set the slow cooker to cook on high for one hour, then cook the apple butter on low for quite some time. The recipe says 9-11 hours, but I let it cook overnight and it didn’t finish until mid-afternoon the next day. So that’s about 16 hours?
The apples on the stove should cook on the lowest setting possible. These apples will reduce much faster than the slow cooker apples, and that’s okay. I let it cook for a couple hours and then turned off the heat before I went to bed and let the apple mixture sit in my cold kitchen overnight. Do NOT keep your stove on all night!!
The fun part is waking up the next morning to the mouth-watering smell of cinnamon apples, and peeking at your creation. The slow cooker apples should have turned into this beautiful deep brownish reddish color by this point. It’s starting to look like apple butter!
I turned the stove-top apples on the lowest setting once again, and eventually, they caught up to the slow cooker apples in texture.
Towards the end, in order to get the right consistency for the apple butter, spoon the slow cooker apple butter into the large pot of apple butter and mix the two halves. It helps to cook the apple butter uncovered to help the extra liquid evaporate. At this point, I used a hand blender to smooth out the apple butter into a more silky texture.
You can tell the apple butter is done when you take a spoonful of the apple butter, place it on a cold plate, and water does not separate from the apple butter. That’s how you know it’s going to be nice and creamy, and not watery.
If you are sealing your jars of apple butter (which, with 25 lbs of apples, you probably are), sterilize the jars, lids, and rings in a water bath. By sealing the jars, you can just store the jars in the pantry for a couple of years. Otherwise, you need to refrigerate the jars, which will keep for a few months, or freeze the jars, which will keep for six months.
Fill each jar with apple butter, leaving 1/4″ headspace (or 1/4″ between the topmost part of the apple butter and the rim of the jar), making sure there are no bubbles in the jar. Carefully, wipe the rim of the jar (which I always forget, doh!!), set the lid on, and screw the ring on until it is fingertip tight. Not too tight, not too loose.
Process the finished jars in a water bath for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave it in the water for 5 minutes. Remove the jars from the water bath, setting them in a place where they will be out of the way, as you aren’t supposed to move or really touch the jars for up to 24 hours after water bath processing. If you are still confused about water bath processing, this website is pretty helpful in breaking it down.
After all of the lids have “popped!” (you’ll know what I mean, it’s glorious!) and 24 hours have passed, you can decorate the jars however you want and give them away as gifts!
People have given rave reviews about this apple butter. One friend dibs a jar whenever I make apple butter, and my mother-in-law says she and my father-in-law just want to eat it by the spoonful. And that’s okay, because 1 tablespoon is only about 30 calories! If you’re not that “eat-it-by-the-spoonful” kind of person, you can also spread it on some lightly buttered toast, blueberry muffins, or chocolate chip banana bread. Whatever you feel like!
So there you have it. A ridiculously easy recipe for making apple butter! I hope this recipe comes in handy, and that you get to enjoy warm cinnamon-y apple smells in your kitchen one glorious morning!
Below is a recipe you can easily print and add to your recipe box.
:: Easy Apple Butter ::
|Prep time||2 hours|
|Cook time||16 hours|
|Total time||18 hours|
|Meal type||Appetizer, Bread, Condiment, Dessert, Snack|
- Water bath canning equipment
- Slow cooker
- Hand blender
- 16 pint-sized jars, lids, and rings
- 22-25 Pounds apples (cored, peeled, and finely chopped)
- 3 Cups sugar
- 3 Tablespoons cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Stock pot
- Apple peeler/slicer/corer
|Prepare apples by washing, peeling, coring, and finely chopping.|
|Place as much of the apple as you can in the slow cooker and the rest in the stock pot. For smaller batches, the slow cooker should be sufficient.|
|Mix together the sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves, and salt, and divide the mixture between the slow cooker and the pot. The ratio does not need to be perfectly divided as the entire batch will eventually be mixed together.|
|Set the slow-cooker on high for 1 hour, then cook the apples in the slow-cooker on low for 16 hours. It is most convenient to leave the slow-cooker on overnight. Set the apples in the pot on the stove on the lowest setting possible, making sure to turn off the stove overnight. In the morning, turn the stove back on the lowest setting possible until it reaches the color and consistency of the slow-cooker apple mixture. Stir both mixtures from time to time.|
|When the color and consistency of both apple mixtures are about the same, mix the two batches into the stock pot, cooking the mixture over low heat with the lid off in order for water to evaporate.|
|Use the hand blender to smooth out the apple butter.|
|To test to see whether the apple butter is ready to be canned, drop a spoonful of the apple butter onto a cold plate. If water separates from the apple butter, continue to cook the apple butter. If water does not separate from the creamy apple butter, the apple butter is ready to be canned.|
|Prepare your canning materials by first sterilizing the jars, rings, and lids in the hot water bath.|
|Once sterilized, fill each jar with apple butter so that there is 1/4" headspace. Be sure to remove any bubbles from the jar and to wipe the rim of the jar. Carefully place the lid on the jar and screw on the ring until it is fingertip tight.|
|Process the completed jars in a water bath for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave the jars in the hot water for another 5 minutes.|
|Remove the jars from the water bath, taking care not to move or touch the jars for 24 hours.|
|Decorate the jars for yourself, or give away as gifts!|