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Recipe: Canning Apple Butter

One of my favourite Pennsylvania Dutch things is apple butter. Apple butter is best when spread on a warm dinner roll, or a spoonful mixed into some cottage cheese. Trips to Willow Valley always included a spoonful of apple butter on my plate, and trips to Kitchen Kettle were never complete unless I bought a jar.

In the UK however, we don’t have apple butter. We have all sorts of other spread-y type things for your bread, but no apple butter.

For those of you not familiar with apple butter, I need to explain that it is not butter in the sense of a dairy or vegetable based spread you put on toast or use to bake bread with. The best way I can describe it is it’s sort of like applesauce, only thicker, darker, and with spices. It’s tasty and is my favourite topping for toast. It even out-shines Nutella!

With all the wind bringing down the apples on the 20-foot-tall apple tree in the garden, it was time to start doing something with them!

Like last year, I planned on coring and cutting as many apples as I could and dividing them into 500g freezer bags. 500g is just about what will fill up my crumble bowl, and a good way of measuring them out. Plus, it’s how much will fit into a small freezer bag comfortably. To freeze the apples, I leave the skins on and use one of those kitchen gadgets that slices the apple and cores it at the same time. I discard the core, cut off any brown spots, and cut the slices in half. After measuring out 500g, I pop them in a freezer bag and add a teaspoon of lemon juice (to help with discolouration) and give the bag a shake before putting it into the freezer. Last year, I wound up with 6KG of apples in the freezer which really saw us through winter! This year, I’m trying not to put too much in the freezer because we need to defrost it soon and I wouldn’t want to lose anything!

I made apple butter last year, but such a small amount I only had enough for 2 small containers. Since I had to get the apples dealt with sooner than I had planned, I decided to try making a large batch of apple butter and I collected as many as I could that had fallen into my laundry basket.

I started coring and cutting the apples and measured them out in 500g intervals on my scale and tipped them into my large crock pot until it was full — about 2KG of apples. 2KG of apples will yield about 2000ml of apple butter, more if you don’t cook it for as long as I did. I sealed my jars in the oven since I don’t have a large pot for the stove. The USDA does not recommend this method for canning, however there are no such suggestions in the UK, and oven canning is even suggested.

Crock Pot Apple Butter

You will need:

2KG Apples, cored and cut (or however much your crock pot will hold. I used a 6L crock pot)
2 TBS Cinnamon (adjust based on amount of apples)
1 1/2 TBS Nutmeg (adjust based on amount of apples)
1 1/2 TBS Cloves (adjust based on amount of apples)
1 1/2 Cup sugar or Splenda (optional)
Water

Large Crock Pot
Blender (I tried out my new stick blender!)
Wooden Spoon
Sterilized Jars

– Core and cut apples into small chunks. You can leave off the skin if you don’t feel like peeling (I never peel them). Fill your crock pot until it nearly reaches the top. I stopped about three inches from the top.
-Using a measuring jug, add water to the crock pot until the apples are covered. I used 1L of water, but your amount may vary.
-Cook on LOW for 10-12 hours. Overnight is ideal. You want to cook it past the point of applesauce.
-In the morning, turn off your crock pot and use a blender or stick blender to blend the apples until they are smooth. I used my stick blender directly in my crock pot, but if you’re using a regular blender you might have to do it in batches.
-Mix in the spices and give it a taste. If it tastes too tart to your liking, add about 1/2 cup sugar or sweetener. You also can add more spices if you think it needs it!
-Cook on low for about 2 hours. Give it a stir and a taste. Add more sugar/spices if it’s not to your liking.
-Take a wooden spoon and use it to prop open the lid. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! By venting the crock pot lid, you are letting the steam escape and this will reduce the applesauce down to apple butter.
-I had my crock pot on low for about 12 hours, but this was only because we left to visit friends in the evening and stayed longer than we had anticipated. At a minimum, it can be done in about 8 hours. The longer it cooks, the thicker it will get.

-Sterilize your jars. You can do this several ways including boiling them in water or placing in a hot oven. I sterilized mine in a hot oven by pre-heating the oven to 105C (225F) and placing the jars on a tray. Leave in for 10 minutes, then turn off the oven and let the jars sit in the oven until you are ready for them.

-Give your apple butter a taste again. If it still tastes too tart for your liking, add the final 1/2 cup of sugar or sweetener and blend. You might want to use your blender or stick blender again if your apple butter looks too chunky.
-By now, your apple butter should be a dark brown colour. Turn off the crock pot.
-To make it easier to pour (and to know how much you made), transfer the apple butter into a measuring jug. I had just under 2000ml.
-carefully pour into your sterilized jars, leaving a little bit of room at the top. Wipe the sides of the mouth and screw on the lids.
-Seal your jars in your preferred method. Most people will boil their jars, but as I don’t have a large pot, I needed to use the oven method.

-Place jars on a baking sheet in a cold oven and turn the dial to 105C (225F). Allow the oven to heat up and leave on for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave jars in for an additional 30 minutes. You can tell the jar is sealed if you can push on the top and it doesn’t make a popping sound.

And now you have apple butter to last through winter!

Oh, and to clean out that crock pot after making a mess in it, pour some dish soap in it and fill it up with water. “Cook” it on low overnight with the lid on, and in the morning it should come clean.

In case you were wondering, to make applesauce cook the apples and water for 4 hours on high in the crock pot, add sugar, drain off some of the water, and blend.


[The first batch. I’ve since made a second batch of apple butter and a batch of applesauce….]

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4 comments

4 Comments so far

  1. miss m September 14th, 2011 21:48

    Mmm….apple butter….

  2. Rebecca September 15th, 2011 10:42

    You could totally scale this down and do a small batch — I made a batch last year in my small crock pot and it was just enough for a small tupperware container. Or even make it on the stove – really, just overcook some applesauce and add the spices. LOL

  3. DaddyBear October 12th, 2011 19:10

    This looks absolutely delicious. We’re going to be getting some apples from one of the local farms in a couple of weeks, so I’ll have to give this a whirl.

  4. Rebecca October 12th, 2011 19:13

    It’s fantastic, and I think it tastes as good as the stuff I’d get from the Amish farm stands!

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