Apple Butter

This autumn (and I know it is still late summer really, but it is the 1st September and it was misty when I got up and it is just starting to feel autumnal) well, this autumn the apple crops are amazing. Every apple tree seems to be laden with fruit. Friends who drove up to see us, last weekend,  said the roads from Oxfordshire were being pelted with fruit as they passed. So many apples, and all of them so ripe they just fell from the trees with the faintest encouragement or vibration from passing traffic. I often wonder about the roadside apple trees… are they successful seedlings, all grown up from a thrown away apple core as people went past, or are they the remnants of a long ago cottage garden by the road? I think they are, perhaps, from cores as the trees are so tall and straight. Any old apple tree in a garden tends to be gnarled and battered. It’s nice to think of nature triumphing from a discarded core, isn’t it?

But there’s so many of them! And no one is doing anything with them. What a waste! Mind you, it’s thinking of things to do with this huge crop……

Today’s apples, I decided, were going to be made into apple butter.

I’d read about this for years but not really explored what it was. I had a half notion it was apples and butter (which sound rather nice, actually) but when I started searching, I discovered that it was just apples, spices and a little bit of sugar, boiled down and thickened during the long slow cooking to make a preserved apple spread. It spreads, apparently, like butter when it is done, which is how it got its name. Wikipedia explained a bit more, as did Charles, a friend in America, who told me that his father -in- law and the rest of his townsfolk gather to make apple butter in huge quantities in the town square. The smell is amazing, apparently, spreading out from the town square. Historically the idea came from Europe and was taken to America by immigrants and it is mainly in America that it is made now.

Well, it is going to be made in Nottingham today. I have fruit (plenty of fruit) and time to do it. All it takes is apples and spices. Something that we can have on toast, or cook with later in the year when all the apples have either fallen or rotted. Something healthy and tasty. A dairy free spread from free fruit? Sounds good, doesn’t it?

It is simplicity itself. All you have to do is quarter the apples, leaving the skin on and the core in – this will add pectin to the apples and help it set. Only cut out and damaged bits of apple and do remove any spiders or caterpillars that you may  have brought home with you.

There were about 3 lbs of apples in my large pan and I poured in a cup of water to help them cook down. In the long slow cooking that follows the water will evaporate. Some recipes says use a cup of cider vinegar as it adds a tang to the end product but I didn’t have any, so water it was.

The apples started to cook very quickly – maybe a couple of minutes and you could see them soften. It is important to keep stirring so they don’t burn.

After about 15 minutes or so, the apples had reduced to a soft mush, like apple sauce.

One of the things I was given from my aunt’s house was a Mouli food mill which is ideal for this next bit.

As you have cooked the skin, the core and the pips as well as the apple, you need to get the bits out and just have the smooth cooked apple left to transform into the apple butter. I used the finest plate and started to mill the apple puree.

If you haven’t got a  Mouli then you can do this next bit by pushing the fruit through a sieve. The Mouli is quick, though, so it could be a good thing to buy.

You can see how smooth the milled apple is and all the hard bits are left behind.

A beautiful, smooth apple puree.

I tasted the apple and it was sweetly appleish but quite sharp so 1 cup of sugar was added and stirred in.

The next part was to add the spices…. most of the recipes I looked at suggested nutmeg so I added half a teaspoon or so into the mix (thanks, Bear for taking the photo)

And all recipes said to add my favourite spice cinnamon – 1 whole teaspoon.

A pinch of ground cloves (yes, you can buy it ground but I couldn’t find my jar, so I ground up a couple or so of cloves with my trusty pestle and mortar and scooped up the finest bits)  and half a teaspoon of ground ginger were stirred in as well.

And then I started to stir. The heat was turned down to the bare minimum and I stirred.

Then I went for a nap and left the Bear to stir. So he stirred. All the descritptions of apple butter said that it had to be stirred constantly but we managed a stir every few minutes as the pan sat there on the lowest heat.

Anyway, it didn’t burn and we kept stirring. The apartment smelled gorgeous. Apples, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg  all mixed together is a truly delicious aroma. Even if you don’t want to make it  to eat then you  should make it just for the smell.

The recipes suggested that constant stirring at a slightly higher temperature would have the apple butter ready in a couple of hours.

We did it at a very low temperature for four or so hours… stirring it round until it looked like this

The sugars in the apple had caramelised and the puree had gone a lovely rich and golden brown. When I dragged the spoon through it, it was thick enough to leave a trail through the puree.

When I lifted a spoonfull of it up, it didn’t run off the spoon… so that meant, according to everything I had read, that it was ready.

It didn’t look to me like butter, but there you go, I’d got this far, I’d just have to keep going.

I’d sterilised jars by boiling water in them in the oven and I spooned in the apple butter

It looked brown and still not in the least bit buttery.

By now though, it was getting late so I let it cool and then put it in the fridge overnight.

What a transformation! It had set into a smooth and delicious spread…. yes, it was buttery in texture!

I’d done it!

It tastes delicious and on hot toast it is a perfect breakfast. It can keep in the fridge for three or four weeks (if it last that long) and for months in a properly sealed and sterilised jar.

What I am intrigued with are further recipes that I found – apple butter cakes, cookies or biscuits anyone?

Get out there, collect some apples and start making apple butter!

21 September – Since I posted this, a Canadian friend told me of a quicker way of making apple butter – you can find it on her page – Lorraine, another T.O.B. Cook

24 thoughts on “Apple Butter”

  1. Hi Wendy.

    What a great way to use apples. British apples really are the best. Growing up in Canada I had apple butter occasionally, and it really is good. Totally comforting.

    I think an interesting way of using it would be in recipes that call for pumpkin – pumpkin loaves, pumpkin muffins, that sort of thing. The consistency would be roughly the same, and the spices as well. Mmmm.

    I’ve also got a big bag of apples just waiting to be used, but mine will be going into a pie. Tonight!

  2. Oooh, I didn’t know you were Canadian! Lots of our family and friends are over there in Calgary and Quebec. I have to say I am very impressed with the apple butter and I think it is going to be very useful. I will probably make more of it at the weekend. Good call on pumpkin recipes… we Brits tend not to do much with pumpkin but I shall make that a new project.

  3. You are tempting me to do a batch this year. I always make up jars of something different to give as little hostess gifts around the holidays. Last year was Carrot Cake Jam, I think this year will be the Apple Butter.

  4. Ah, Lorraine, my Canadian friend – is the recipe I used similar to the one you would use? I have to say I am very taken with Apple Butter – the possibilities are immense… smeared on pork chops, used as minimal fat substitute for fat in a cakes and cookies and scones…and all round deliciousness by the spoonful!

  5. Sounds great. I haven’t made that, but used to make damson cheese which is much the same kind of process and was gorgeous – those were the days (30 years ago) when I had time and energy!

  6. Oooh I can practically smell it! I can just imagine how good this would be, slathered over a slice of toast in the morning. A perfect way to sneak some fruit into a fruit-phobe like me!

  7. What a good person you are, I have been looking for a great Apple butter recipe, I am going to try this & if all turns out well I will sell it in the shop, maybe with a little note to say recipe came from fav sisterinlaw.

    Love LA xxx

  8. Aww my darling sis-in-law! I bet that would be good to sell – I am thinking of adding it tonight to my Toffee Apple Crumble….you could print out recipes to go with the jars and hand them out to purchasers! It’s going to go in Apple cake and cookies and in savoury meals…..Apple Butter will sweep through Brisbane!!!

  9. Wendy, the receipe I use is very similar to yours but calls for a bit more sugar and options to replace some with honey or sweet apple cider. Also, the apples are peeled, cored, etc. before cooked for about 30 minutes then processed in food mill or processor. It is a Canadian Home Preserving book I use (Bernardin). Have not made in a few years but will let you know what I end up with. Would be a great item to sell – it is definitely something we see at all Fall Craft Fairs and markets here in Quebec. Add a pretty ribbon or raffia on the jar and voila!

  10. ahh… well though they said stir for hour after hour… I actually had a little nap and the Bear wandered in an out, giving it the occasional stir. I had the hob down to the lowest setting and it all turned out fine. Maybe it is even better with a constatnt stir or maybe that only applies to massivley huge quantities? Who know? I shall just stick to my occasional stirring, I think.

  11. It’s not that laborious, Ananda, honest. It’s a Saturday job though as you need time (and I even had a nap in the middle of making it!) but WELL worth it. I added it to a cake and it was delicious! Cookies next, I think!

  12. W – as you know I went apple picking at the weekend, and have a half a ‘peck’ of apples looking at me in the kitchen!
    I bought the Mason Jars this morning… so… I’m going to boil them in a large pan – how long should I boil them for?
    Do you fill them when they are hot? Or let them cool down?

  13. Well, Mizz Angela…the recipes I found gave ranges for cooking from 2 hours to 6 hours. I turned the heat right down to almost nothing and just kept it ticking over, when I was busy and then turned it up when I was nearby to stir it. The colour changes to a darkish brown when it is caramelised. The second lot I did I cooked for maybe 2 hours. That was better as it didn’t set so hard.(better for spreading) Keep an eye on the colour, I reckon.
    I filled my jar when it was still hot as it was easier to ladle into a jug and then pour in.
    Take pictures, madam!!

  14. Noooo – not the cooking of apples. I was wondering how long you boil the jars for, to sterilise them?
    I have apple cider vinegar, so will let you know how it goes using that instead of water.
    I have also bought ingredients for the apple cake – that will be a gluten free version, so I’ll let you know about that too!!!

  15. Ha! I see what you mean….. I just boiled the kettle and poured some water in the jars then put them in the oven – probably for ten minutes… maybe quarter of an hour? I used my gloves to get them out (brilliant kevlar gloves with fingers! they had cooled (but were not cold) when I put the apple in. You can also put water in them and nuke them in the microwave for a few minutes!

  16. I finally got around to making this last week – 3 hours stirring, blimey. But I was pleased with the result which has a lovely flavour and a lovely consistency. I used less sugar than you, so mine isn’t very sweet, but a lovely mellow flavour. Today, I have made a variation of your cake, so am looking forward to trying that. Thanks for informing me about apple butter.

  17. I think I will use less sugar the next time, Choclette, but there certainly will be a next time. I have 3 big jars waiting from this batch and it is being so useful… I have stirred spoonfuls into a sauce, into mashed potato… I have recipes waiting (but no time to do them) involving apple cheescake bars and cookies. When I think of how many wasted apples there were this year! With our early start into snow and bad weather I think we may well have a bumper crop next year as well!

  18. Hello, I scooted right over here from Choclette’s blog to find out all about apple butter. I’ve never heard of it and I wish I had before, very interesting post ! We had loads of apples this year from our little tree. I look forward to trying this for sure next year. I have some very old yellow apples sitting still in boxes in the garage, do you think it is too late to make them into butter?

  19. Sorry for the late reply, Joanna. I’ve been ill. I’d give it a go. Waste not, want not. I would think that the more “mature” apples will have a rather deep and lovely flavour. The thing about apple butter is that it reduces down the apples so the fact they are softening and probably less good to eat as apples doesn’t mean anything when you are going to render them down anyway, does it? Get cracking on the apple butter! It was an eye opener for me and I’m glad I did it!

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