If your farmer’s market looks anything like mine, it’s apples galore. Every farmer has baskets full of apples, all kinds, just ready to be snapped up and turned into all kinds of delicacies like pie, sauce, crisp, cake, and butter.
Oh yes, apple butter.
This is the first year that I actually attempted apple butter. I’ve made plenty of apple sauce over the years, but I never took the extra step and turned it into butter. For one thing, every recipe made it sound like it took for. ev. er. to make, on top of which most recipes I saw called for lots of sugar. I wasn’t really interested in either of those things.
But oh my, I do love apple butter.
So this year, with all the glut of apples at my farmers’ market, I determined I was going to try my hand at it. Naturally, the whole process started with an intensive online search for an apple butter recipe! Unfortunately, most of the recipes I found required equipment I don’t have (food mill), lots and lots of sugar (as much as 1 cup per pound), or a lengthy list of ingredients, including random stuff I don’t usually have on hand (star anise, anyone?).
I stumbled across a promising one at Martha Stewart.com, though, which appealed to me because it seemed like the easiest way to get from Point A (fresh apples) to Point B (apple butter). I also liked that it included pears in the recipe, because I happened to have some pears also that needed to be eaten before they went bad.
So here you go! I did all the research for you, and now you have the simplest apple butter recipe that you can make in your slow cooker all day while you’re busy with other things. You can even do it in phases: make it as far as the apple sauce stage, then finish it off into apple butter the following day.
And um, yeah, it’s delicious.
Easy Low-Sugar Apple Butter
- 10 medium apples (or about 5 lbs)
- 1/2 cup raw sugar
- 1/2″ piece ginger, grated
- 3 2″ cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Peel the apples, and grate in a food processor or by hand.
- Stir all ingredients together in a slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours.
- Remove cinnamon sticks and set aside. Blend apples into a smooth puree, either with a stick blender or by batches in a regular blender. Return cinnamon sticks to mixture.
- Remove the lid to the slow cooker, and cook the sauce uncovered on high for 4 more hours or to the desired thickness. If it’s too thick, stir in a little apple juice or cider. If it’s too thin, continue cooking, making sure the lid is removed.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer up to 3 months. For long term storage, process half-pint jars for 5-10 minutes in a water bath. Larger jars and higher altitudes will require lengthier processing; see this page for more details.
Note: It is very important to uncover the apple butter, or at least leave the lid vented, for the last half of the cooking process! Don’t neglect that little detail, or you will not have apple butter in the end.
Do feel free to substitute pears for at least some of the apples. Also experiment with additional spices and seasonings to your taste.
My favorite reference for canning, pickyourown.org, says that the sugar does not play a role in the preservation of the apple butter, so you can add as little or as much as you want to your taste. I found that 1/2 cup was plenty, but if you have tart apples or are used to sweeter apple butter, you may want to increase that amount. Next time, I think I might experiment with honey or apple juice instead of sugar.
So it’s not as QUICK as jam, which cooks up on the stove-top in no time at all. But if you have a food processor to do the grating of the apples (which I, alas, do not at the moment), it takes no time at all to prep for the slow cooker, and then the appliance does all the work while you can be busy with other things.
Again, if you have a food processor, it’s definitely the EASY-est apple butter recipe I found in all the recipes I researched.
Making your own apple butter, especially this time of year, is significantly CHEAPer than buying it. This recipe will make approximately 4 half-pint jars for the cost of 1 tote bag of apples ($4.00 at my farmers’ market). I’ve seen jars of low-sugar or unsweetened apple butter for as much as $5, so this is a definite savings!
When you can control the amount of sugar (and use organic or local apples), it makes the finished product so much HEALTHY-er! It’s not as healthy as biting into a fresh apple, of course, but if you’re going to have apple butter, this is the healthiest way to enjoy it.
Check out Tastetastic Thursday for more great recipes!