Ok, I admit that I have a weird obsession with apple picking. Every fall, I go off to the local apple orchard and spent an hour or two finding the ABSOLUTE BESTEST APPLES EVER and dropping them in a basket, and before I know it I have like eight bushels of them and my kids kids are all NO MOM OMG PLEASE NO MORE APPLES.
I mean, really, you can only do so much with apples before everyone gets tired of seeing, eating, and smelling them. So, obviously, there’s some mason jar activity involved, but one of the things I love to make is apple butter. I like this because it uses up a lot of apples, and also IT’S FLIPPIN’ DELICIOUS Y’ALL. Basically, I make a ton of applesauce, and then turn it around and make the applesauce into apple butter.
Plus, the cool thing is that in many pantheons, the apple is a symbol of the Divine. Apple trees are representative of wisdom and guidance. You can use your crock pot to make apple butter – it’s a delicious treat all year long, and if you make it in the fall with fresh apple sauce, you can preserve it to eat later on. Enjoy this tasty spread on warm bread, or just straight from the jar!
Karen Samuels, over at Lehigh Valley History, has some fascinating insight on the history of apple butter. It’s not an ancient recipe by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s one that solved a problem that faced early American settlers: lack of refrigeration. Karen says, “Apple butter is an American invention and attributed to the Pennsylvania German settlers, dating as far back as the mid 1700s. Before they could rely on refrigeration, the local farmers had to sugar cure then smoke meat, pickle vegetables and dry fruit. The Pennsylvania Germans noted that applesauce became rancid before the end of winter. They found with a longer cooking process of the apples and cider they could produce a tasty condiment that could get them through the winter and longer… Some people claim that apple butter can last several years. The higher concentration of sugar gives apple butter a much longer shelf life than applesauce.”
A number of Midwestern towns and cities continue to celebrate their apple butter even to this day – places like Ohio’s historic Roscoe Village and Grand Rapids, as well as Missouri’s Kimmswick and Waterville PA all have annual apple butter festivals.
To make your own apple butter, you’ll need basic canning supplies like Mason jars with lids, a pair of tongs, and a big pot to get started. This recipe should yield you about ten pints of apple butter.
- 9 quarts of applesauce
- 2 C. apple cider
- 3 Tbs. ground cinnamon
- 1 Tbs, ground cloves
- 1 Tbs. nutmeg
- 3 C. sugar (more if you like really sweet apple butter)
You can make this recipe with homemade or store-bought applesauce. Homemade tastes far better, so if you’ve never made your own applesauce, check out this Applesauce recipe.
Fill a crock pot with as much applesauce as it takes to bring you about an inch from the top — this will NOT hold all of the applesauce, unless you have a REALLY big crock pot, but that’s okay. It should take about half the applesauce if you use a 5-quart crock like I do.
Add 1 C. of the cider, half the cinnamon, half the cloves and nutmeg, and 1 1/2 C. of the sugar. Set the crock pot on Low, and cover. Allow the applesauce to cook on low setting for about 8 – 12 hours.
Around the 10-hour point, check the amount of applesauce in the pot. It should have reduced significantly by now, so add in the remaining quarts of applesauce, spices, cider and sugar. Mix thoroughly to blend with the applesauce that’s already in the pot, and allow to simmer for a few more hours, until the applesauce has reduced to a nice, thick brown apple butter.
Optional – use a hand-held mixer to blend the apple butter into a creamy, smooth texture.
Finally, can the apple butter using the following steps: Home Canning Basics, so you’ll have apple butter that lasts for months in your pantry.
Serve your apple butter with a loaf of warm, soft bread, or eat it straight from the jar!