Apple Butter


Strudel When we bought our house, we inherited two apple trees, an Asian pear tree, and a (sickly) Bartlett pear tree. These trees create enormous amounts of fruit (with the exception of the ill pear tree) that we watch – every year – with a mixture of guilt and sadness, because we just don’t know what to do with all the fruit. At the start of the season, we’re so excited, and by the end, when we’re picking up buggy, moldy fruit off the front lawn, we feel guilty for not trying harder, and doing more, with our fruit. It’s a little ridiculous, but then again, so are we – and so it goes.


So I’m working on having a restorative experience this summer. Before all the fruit is eaten by the worms and other bugs, I’m planning on canning and doing what I can with the apples. First up, apple butter. We love jams for toast and cheeses, and a thick, apple-y spread seems a great way to use the apples AND to make in big batches AND to eventually give as house gifts or little holiday giveaways.


I’m pleased to say that the lovely apples from my lovely tree created a thick, spiced spread that tastes like fall – it will be great to use for sandwiches, on eggs, stirred in overnight oats and definitely to be served with creamy cheeses. With a bit of chopping and some mostly hands-off time, this is recipe is a keeper for the fall season.



Apple Butter

slightly adapted from this recipe

makes approximately 8 cups


  • 5 pounds tart apples
  • 1 (ish) cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla


Wash the apples (no need to peel), and cut into quarters and remove the core. Roughly chop the apples and place them in cooking pot.


Add the spices, sugar (you may want to start with less sugar, depending on the sweetness of your apples), lemon juice and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over the two cups of water and then mix again. This will look like too little water, but the apples will also release liquid.


Put the pan over medium heat and heat until the water starts bubbling. Once that happens, turn the heat down a bit and simmer with the lid cracked for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, take the lid completely off and simmer for another 45 minutes.


At that point, there should be very little to no liquid left, and the apples should be soft. If the liquid disappearing before then, add in 1/4 cup more and turn down the heat down a little.


Using a potato masher, mash the apples until there are no huge pieces that will be left crunchy. It should look like chunky applesauce. Keeping the heat on low, cook for another 30 minutes or so, stirring every few minutes, to remove a little more liquid and concentrate the flavors a bit – the apples should get darker as they cook.


With an immersion blender, or in a food processor, process the apples, making it as smooth or chunky as you like. Once that’s done, taste and add more sugar or spices or salt, if needed. If you do add anything, cook for another five minutes or so it’s well combined.


For a more intense apple flavor, continue to cook the apple butter, making sure to keep the heat on low and stirring often so it doesn’t stick to the pan.


The original recipe talks about storing the apple butter in the freezer and using as needed; sounds like it will last 6-12 months if well sealed.


Since mine will go out as gifts, I canned them by ladling the apple butter into prepared, sterilized jars. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a water bath for 15 minutes (or however long is appropriate, per your altitude). Turn off the water and let the jars sit for another 5 minutes in the water. Remove, let sit for 24 hours, then store in a cool, dry place.



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