What the heck is apple butter? Is it apple-flavoured butter? What do you do with it?
These are all valid questions. Here are the answers:
Apple butter is just apple butter cooked down to a spreadable, sort of butter-like consistency.
It is not butter at all, thus is not apple-flavoured butter. But it is an apple-flavoured spread.
What don’t you do with it? (Don’t you hate it when someone answers a questions with a question? Me too.) Well, you can put it on toast, crackers or for the g-f crowd – rice cakes. You can put it on pork chops or chicken. You can bake it into muffins or cakes in place of some of the butter or oil, though apple sauce is the juicier version and this has a slightly stronger, bitter flavour because of the cooking down, even though I made a sweetened version in addition to an unsweetened version.
You can stir it into butter and make apple butter-butter. Say it three times fast and try not to smile. I dare you.
See? I just made your day. We all need to smile sometimes.
Other apple butter facts:
It should be more expensive than apple sauce because it takes about twice as many apples to make the same quantity.
You can make a completely unsweetened canned version and it’s safe because there’s so much natural sugar and pectin in the apples. You can also add some sugar and it’s much better…it rounds out the fruit flavour.
You can flavour it or not – cinnamon and nutmeg, or cooked down strawberries or pears or anything else you see Mott’s doing with their applesauce, minus the preservatives.
Peeling 24 pounds of apples in 3 days is a very efficient way of hurting your hand and turning you into a horrible rockclimber, guitarist, marimbist, vibraphonist, typer, jar opener, or stress-ball squeezer. This may or may not matter to you.
It’s not worth investing in an apple peeler unless you plan to make a living out of peeling apples. Just buy a good vegetable peeler. If you need to invest in a peeler, consider investing in an actual apple peeler though, or an apple peeler and veg peeler, since I hear carrots are important to a well-rounded diet, too.
Slow-Cooker Apple Butter
Adapted from Food in Jars
A lot of apples, from 7 cups chopped to 12 pounds whole (the nice thing is you can do this with however many you want, but you should start with a lot if you want a decent sized batch
1-3 large sticks cinnamon (or a 1/2 to one teaspoon or so ground)
1/2-1 tsp nutmeg
3-5 whole cloves, or 1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground
1/-1 1/2 cups sugar, honey, coconut sugar, agave nectar, soaked and puréed dates, any flavour jam, optional
1-3 cups puréed or stewed fruit of any kind – strawberries, blueberries, etc.
Peel, quarter, pit, and chop apples into chunks (this is where that pitter comes in, and changes this from a 2 hour experience to a 10 minute lark). Cook in a large pot or two with 1/2 cup water in each pot until the apples soften. Stir frequently to heat evenly, and when mashable, blend with an immersion blender, or transfer in batches to a blender. Then either return to the pot and cook, stirring frequently or transfer to a slow-cooker. I recommend the slow-cooker since it’s harder to burn and takes way less effort.
Cook in slow-cooker overnight or for about 8 hours with the lid slightly ajar – see photo. I did not “See photo” in advance and cooked it with the lid off and a strainer inverted on top to catch and splatter. It worked but the top formed a skin that oxidized and needed to be stirred in occasionally, like at 1am when I woke up worrying about my apple butter…
In the morning, sterilize jars in hot water canner, add sugar to apple butter to taste, and fill jars. Soften lids, remove air bubbles, wipe rims, add softened lids, screw on ring bands, and place back in hot water canner for 20 minutes (start timer when water comes back to a boil). Unsweetened apple sauce is most likely safe, but sweetened is safer. I did half and half. Remember to mark which jars are which, though…