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This easy apple butter recipe is made in the slow cooker! This thick autumn spiced spread is fantastic on your morning toast, smoothed over a warm slice of pumpkin bread, or eaten off a spoon.
The first time I made apple butter from scratch was just a few weeks after I gave birth to Greyson (who just turned seven!). We went apple picking at a farm in Maryland and I had a huge surplus of apples that I had no idea what to do with. So I canned the majority of it for Brian to give away at Walter Reed on his shifts and it was a huge hit!
So when I brought this to the blog back in 2015 (!!!), I knew that it was a winner of a recipe. It just screams fall, spiced with cinnamon and ginger and a hearty grating of nutmeg and slow-cooked so the apples and sugar become deeply caramelized and rich.
What is apple butter?
Apple butter is a sweet spread made from slow cooking apples with sugar and spices until it becomes a rich, concentrated applesauce.
Apple butter doesn't taste like applesauce, it's really more like a sweet, caramel-apple type of flavor mixed with cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.
It has a ton of uses, from eating it on your morning toast, slices of pumpkin bread, swirling it into pumpkin pie filling, making apple butter babka loaves, mixing it into your cookie dough, and anywhere you would spread jam.
Making Homemade Apple Butter in the Crock-Pot
What apples to use
The most important thing is using the right apples. Some apples, like Red Delicious, are solely for eating fresh not for baking or cooking. Why? They turn mealy in texture and their flavor doesn't shine.
Instead, look for 'soft variety' apples like Fuji, Braeburn, Golden Delicious, Cortland, or McIntosh. These are considered 'soft' because their apples soften down easily, making them a dream to mash with a potato masher or fork instead of having to grab an immersion blender or pouring into a food processor.
How many apples are in a pound?
You'll see many recipes talking about using '4 pounds, 5 pounds' of apples, but how many apples are in a pound?
Two large apples or three medium-sized apples are in a pound! My recipe will tell you the six pounds of apples are actually 12 large or 18 medium-sized apples and this makes A LOT of apple butter for canning, freezing, or using some in cinnamon rolls, spreading onto French toast, or making pretty swirls in apple butter babka.
- A blend of your favorite soft variety apples for flavor
- Brown sugar, the molasses in it will give depth and richness
- Granulated sugar.
- Cinnamon. If you're using cinnamon sticks, make sure they're not ceylon cinnamon sticks. Ceylon cinnamon are layered and break apart when cooked and we don't want bits of hard cinnamon splinters in our apple butter.
- Ground Ginger. I do use fresh, peeled ginger knobs sometimes because I love ginger and when they're big ole knobs you can just fish them out. But if you're not a huge fan of ginger, use ground.
- Ground cloves. Cloves are essential in fall baking! But it's a powerful spice, so a little goes a very long way.
- Nutmeg. Freshly grated is the way to go! The scent of freshly grated nutmeg is ah-may-zing, but remember, it's powerful too. A little goes far!
- Lemon Juice. If you find that your apple butter is really, really concentrated and super sweet, add in a bit of lemon juice. That tartness will help lighten it up and give it a fresh flavor.
Fixing Runny Apple Butter
Apples vary in water content, from their size to their variety. This recipe has you take off the lid after the apples have been cooking for 8 hours for an additional 2 hours so the water can evaporate. But what if there is just way too much water?
Try pouring the spead into a shallow oven-safe dish and let it reduce in a 300 degree F oven for an hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the water has evaporated significantly. There should be very little water left. The apple's natural pectin will thicken it as it cools.
Fixing too thick apple butter
If you accidentally forgot your apple butter in the crockpot overnight (it happens...especially if you've got pregnancy brain!) and you woke up and have a seriously t h i c c apple butter waiting for you, just add a splash of water, maybe two tablespoons, give it a stir, and add more as needed until it spreads smoothly.
How to Freeze Apple Butter
First, let the apple butter cool down to room temperature, then spoon the spread into freezer-safe containers, leaving about ½ an inch of headspace in each container before sealing them and placing them into your freezer.
Apple butter keeps well in the freezer for up to an entire year!
More Amazing Apple Recipes!
- Sparkling Apple Cider Sangria
- Apple Coffee Cake
- Apple Fritter Donuts
- Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake
- From Scratch Apple Pie
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How to Make Apple Butter
- 6 lbs 12 large or 18 medium soft variety apples
- 2 cups 400 g brown sugar
- 1 cup 200 g white granulated sugar
- 2 sticks cinnamon or 2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- Peel your apples and chop them in relatively equal-sized pieces
- Set your slow cooker on high for eight hours, covered. Leave it alone. Your house will smell like apple pie all day.
- After the eight hours, mash the apples with a potato masher or fork until almost the texture of applesauce. The apples should be a beautiful deep reddish-brown color and the sugars dissolved. The slow cooker will be full of liquid, so for the next two hours leave it uncovered so the liquid can evaporate.
- Keep an eye on the apple butter during the two hours, but the apple butter should be thick at the end of the two hours Keep mashing the apples at your leisure until the individual apples no longer have a form and the apple butter is the texture of thick applesauce.
- Taste the mixture, add lemon juice a bit at a time to lighten the sweetness.
- Spoon the apple butter into sterile containers (for either canning or freezing). Store in the fridge for up to two weeks or freeze for up to 12 months if not canning.