This weekend’s project was at the request of my sister. She thought that Apple Butter was an appropriate project for this time of year. It had been years since I attempted a preserve, so it definitely intrigued me. Lady Di hadn’t made Apple Butter and thought it would be different and a bit more challenging than the last couple of projects.
So, let me start with a little research. There are a number of different recipes out there. For the most part the ingredients are the same. The biggest difference is the approach to cooking. There are recipes for crockpot cooking and stove top cooking. For this recipe, I went the route of stove top, which I think requires a bit more attention and labor.
The other major difference is how you prepare the apples. Some recipes call for quartering and cooking the entire apple (core and peel). Others called for just the apple flesh, without core and peel. The difference between the two is the natural pectin. For apples pectin is mostly in the skin and core. The thinking is that including the peel and core in the first cook would make the apple butter a little more firm. That and add a little more flavor. We took the route of cooking the entire apple.
I would like to note that there were a few challenges with what I made, due to volume. My base recipe indicated that it produced about 2 quarts. Well, after all was said and done, I ended up with about 5 quarts, partly due to a mistake in the process. In addition to ending up with a ton of Apple Butter, working with that kind of volume almost makes the overall process unmanageable. So, tip one, work with small batches. I will point out some of the volume challenges as I describe the process. I will also point out a major mistake that we made in our prep, related to this.
The next challenge was jars and lids. Because I don’t do canning with any frequency, I don’t have a good feel for seasons and when supplies might be in high demand. End of September aligns with harvests and traditional canning. So, make sure you have jars and lids in the ready, before you start. There was a little bit of a scramble, for me, to make sure we were going to be able to can the apple butter.
Let’s start. I recommend using apples in increments of 2 ½ pounds (3 – 4 large apples). The pictures shown in this blog are for 10 pounds of apples. I chose a combination of half Granny Smith and half Envy apples. It just happened that they were on sale. We used an apple peeler corer to peel, core, and slice the apples. I highly recommend using this method regardless of the approach to making the apple butter. It makes the process of peeling and coring apples very quick, with little waste. In the case of our recipe, we tossed everything into the pot.
Put the pot on the stove and add 2 cups of apple cider for every 2 ½ pounds of apples. Using a medium high heat bring the apples and cider to a boil. When the mixture starts boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Stir every 7 – 10 minutes. Cook for 30 – 45 minutes until the apple flesh becomes soft. You should be able to flatten an apple piece with a silicon spatula.
Now comes the fun part, and where we made our major mistake. Drain the fluids into a separate container, leaving behind just the apple flesh, cores and peels. Now, put the apple flesh, core and peels into a medium mesh sieve or a food mill. Use a small portion of the apples, which makes it easier to work. If you put too much into the sieve, it is difficult to force apple flesh through the sieve. Now, take a silicon spatula (or rubber) and push the apple flesh through the sieve into a pot. I found that holding the spatula at a 30 – 45-degree angle and pulling the flesh across the mesh. This will gradually push the fruit into the pot. You will end up with peels, core husk, and seeds in the sieve. The first picture shows apples before being pushed through the sieve. The second picture shows the left overs after most of the apple flesh has been pushed through. The third picture shows the apple after it was pushed through the sieve. This is where we made a critical mistake by not straining off the fluids first. Be sure to strain off the fluids.
Take the pot of apple flesh and add a half cup of the strained fluid for every 2 ½ pounds of apples used. At this time, for every 2 ½ pounds of apples mix in ½ cup of granulated sugar; a ½ cup of light brown; a 1 teaspoon of cinnamon; ¼ teaspoon of ground clove; and a ¼ teaspoon of all spice. Place the pot on the stove and bring to a boil over a medium to medium high heat. Be very careful, you can scorch the bottom of the apples, which is a bad thing. Stir frequently, until the apple mixture starts boiling. Once the apples start boiling reduce the heat to low. Cook for 2 – 3 hours, stirring every 10 – 15 minutes. The mixture should take on a nice brown color and start to thicken. You will know it’s done when you can take a spoonful and the butter doesn’t spill off the spoon when you tilt it on its side. Picture 1 is a pot full of apple pushed through a sieve. If you follow the instructions, it shouldn’t be so liquid. Picture 2 shows the apples after adding sugar & spices and after it had started to boil. Picture 3 shows the apple butter after cooking for 3 hours. It’s still very liquid because we didn’t strain off the fluids first. It’s still good.
If you are deciding to can the apple butter, you will need to sanitize your jars. I used a dishwasher to do the sanitizing of the jars. Keep the jars in the dishwasher until you are ready to can. For the lids, use fresh lids. In a small pot, cover the lids with water and bring to a boil. Leave the lids submerged in the water until you are ready.
Take the apple butter, while still warm, and fill the jars using a ladle. Leave about a quarter to a half an inch of space from the top of the jar. Place the lid on the jar and screw tightly.
Fill a large pot with enough water to completely cover your largest jar. If you have a canning rack, use it. If you have a steamer rack, use it. You need to make sure the jars are not touching the bottom of the pot. Bring the pot to a complete boil and lower the jars into the boiling water. Boil the jars for 5 minutes, remove and let cool. As the jar is cooling, the top should pop. This means the raised middle of the jar lid should be down, and no longer makes a click sound when pressed. Picture 1 is a canning pot with a canning rack. Picture 2 shows a finished jar. Please note the indentation on the lid and how it appears depressed.
The apple butter should last about 3 months, without refrigeration, when canned properly. This time is doubled when refrigerated.
Apple peeler corer
Large cook pot (6 quart or more)
Large cook pot (4 quart or more)
Mesh sieve or food mill
Measuring cups and spoons
Ingredients (Keep spices and sugar proportionate to weight of apples)
2 ½ pounds of apples (peeled, sliced, cored)
2 cups of apple cider
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon of cloves
¼ teaspoon of all spice
1. Core, Peel, Slice Apples
2. Place apples, peels, core and apple cider in large cooking pot
3. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to simmer. Stir frequently.
4. Simmer for 30 – 45 minutes until apple flesh is soft
5. Drain fluid and save
6. Push apple flesh through sieve into empty cooking pot
7. Mix in sugar and spices
8. Add ½ cup of saved fluid
9. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce to low. Stir frequently
10. Cook for 2 – 3 hours until thickened
11. Can in jars or save in plastic container