I recently learned how to make apple butter and I was a little embarrassed that it took me so long to start making my own since it's so easy. Apples have so many varieties with subtle differences in taste that you can combine varieties to come up with your own perfect signature combo.
Once you taste the homemade version, store-bought is seriously not worth a trip to the store. Sure it takes a couple of hours to cook, but the hands-on time is minimal.
Apple Butter Ingredients
Cooking the Apples
Peel, core, and cut the apples into quarters. If you can, use organic apples. The apples will cook down considerably and the aroma of the apple cider vinegar dissipates during the cooking. Bring the apples to a rolling boil and lower heat to a simmer. Stir the mixture occasionally to avoid the apples sticking to bottom and burning.
After about an hour and a half, remove the Dutch oven from the heat and cream the apples using an immersion blender, blending until you have a smooth creamy texture. Return the Dutch oven to the heat and add the brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.
Mix it all together and continue cooking for another hour or so, to meld the flavors together. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking and burning on the bottom of the pan.
What are the best types of apples to use?
I like to use Gala or McIntosh apples and add in one or two Granny Smith for a nice flavor combo of sweet and tart. As you would guess, the sweeter the apple the less brown sugar you will need.
A few common apple varieties that make a nice apple butter either by themselves or mixed up include:
- Braeburn - This one is more tart than it is sweet and perfectly crisp.
- Fuji - a mostly sweet apple variety.
- Gala - a sweet crisp apple.
- Gravenstein - a classic sweet-tart apple with hints of honey.
- McIntosh - a classic sweet simple apple flavor.
What's the difference between apple butter and applesauce?
Applesauce is a little thinner is consistency and although the ingredients are similar the apple butter is cooked for a longer time. The flavor of applesauce is lighter and less intense than apple butter.
Does apple butter need to be refrigerated after opening?
Yes, the apple butter needs to be refrigerated and should not be stored on a shelf since it is not canned. The apple butter will stay fresh for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator.
Freezing Apple Butter without Canning
Prepare your mason jars by washing and rinsing, then boil the jars for about 5 minutes. Carefully remove the jars from the boiling water and carefully pour out the hot water. When the jars are dry fill with the apple butter. Most mason jars have a freeze-fill line that shows you how much food you can safety put into a glass jar without risking breaking when the contents freeze and expand. The line is usually about an inch down from the top of the jar. Only freeze food in straight-sided jars, not jars with shoulders.
When ready to use, thaw the apple butter in the refrigerator. The apple butter will stay fresh for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator. For safety, if you see any off signs of mold or an off smell, toss the jar.
Some of my favorite ways to use apple butter
- Mix with a homemade cranberry sauce and use as a topping on pork chops, turkey, or chicken
- On pancakes or waffles
- On biscuits and toast instead of butter and jam
- Mix into masked sweet potatoes
- As a topping on vanilla ice cream tastes like apple pie without the crust.
- A thin layer on top of plain cheesecake