Apple Butter is synonymous with fall. I have fond memories of days spent at my grandparents making quart upon quart of apple sauce every autumn. Some of that apple sauce was then boiled down even further and reduced to what we knew as "apple butter", even though no butter was present. Maybe it's the fact that you can use it in place of butter and be just as happy. My grandfather used it on everything from corn bread to cottage cheese (Yes, cottage cheese. Try it! Life. Changing.).
Last year I decided it was time to try my hand at capturing this distinct and delicious fall flavor. I certainly was not about to sacrifice one of my precious jars of apple sauce to the cause though! I stumbled upon a Crock Pot apple butter recipe while thumbing through a magazine...and that was all it took! I made two batches last fall and was able to gift them over the holiday season to several friends and family members. It was so well received I knew I had to make more this year.
Enter my ginormous bag of apples fished from the "seconds" bin at the local orchard. Seconds are the apples the orchard deems unfit for retail sale due to small size, a bruise or other imperfection. Perfect for baking and canning though -and at a bargain basement price! I chose Golden Delicious, but just about any baking apple will do. Nothing too tart, such as Granny Smith, or you will need to add extra sugar to balance out the tartness. It really couldn't be easier to make. If you have a blender and a Crock Pot, you're in business! Here's my method, feel free to tweak to your tastes!
I washed and sliced enough apples to fill my 6 quart cooker. As I layered the apples I sprinkled them with 1/2 cup of sugar. After that I put the lid on and let them stand all day. (This may not be necessary but it enabled me to do the prep work in the morning and then turn the crock pot on before I went to bed.) Before turning on I added 1 3/4 tsp of pumpkin pie spice and 1/4 tsp of all spice. Then I stirred it all up and put the lid on. Turned it on to low around 7:30 PM and left it cooking all night. By 7:30 AM the apples were reduced to less then half. I took the lid off and let it cook for another hour to thicken. After an hour I returned the lid and turned the Crock Pot to the "warm" setting and left it to cook for the rest of the day. At 3 PM I began the processing.
Working with one cup of apples at a time I processed it in my blender until smooth. Use *extreme caution* during this phase. The apple butter is piping hot and has a tendency to splash, splatter and otherwise cover your kitchen (and you, ouch!) in apple butter goodness. I always wait a few seconds after turning off the blender to remove the lid. This gives the apple butter a chance to settle and saves you from a painful splatter.
Next I gave all of the different "batches" a stir and a taste test. I found that it was perfectly sweet with just the original 1/2 cup of sugar. You may prefer it a touch sweeter and can add sugar to taste.
Before I started processing the apple butter in the blender I washed my jars and lids in hot soapy water and sterilized them in a boiling water bath. If you have never canned before I know this is where I loose you. But trust me, if you can normally make your way around a kitchen without burning down the house or cutting off your hand, you can can! Corny, I know. Can, can....never mind.
I filled the hot, sterilized jars with the hot apple butter leaving 1/4" headspace. I wiped the rims, topped the jar with a hot lid and tightened the band until snug. As soon as I was done I placed the jar back in the hot water while I completed filling the remaining jars. In the end I had 6 half pints and 1 pint which were processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
If you are a newbie to preserving please go here and learn more. Canning can be a fun, rewarding experience if you follow safe methods. On the other hand it can be deadly if not properly executed. There are no shortcuts in canning! My favorite go-to-guide is the Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Preserving.