I first had apple butter as a freshman in college on an annual apple picking trip. Each year a group of us would escape the city and make our pilgrimage to Keown Orchards, in Sutton, MA, to partake in this uniquely New England tradition. After taking a tractor ride out to the orchards to pick apples right off the tree, we would return to the old wooden barn and buy homemade goodies made on the premises. This included freshly baked pie, which we watched being retrieved from the oven and then placed right in front of our drooling mouths. We gathered around and scorched our tongues as we devoured the pies like a pack of ravenous wolves. Aside from these outstanding pies, we also had our pick of homemade jams, jellies and fruit butters. My favorite by far was their apple butter. A rookie to the east coast, I fell in love with my new found spread and brought back several jars to Boston, to enjoy for months to come.
Everyone can agree, Californians are spoiled by their abundance and variety of fruits and vegetables. However, in my opinion, one fruit the east coast grows better than the west is apples. Until college, I had never had apples with such exceptional flavor! They've quickly become one of my favorite fall time fruits and spreads. Apple butter is great with bread or toast, desserts, and pork chops.
I've developed this recipe in the hopes of capturing those crisp fall New England days spent on the orchard. For me, this apple butter evokes fond memories of sunny autumn days spent with friends. Since fruit butters and jams make great gifts, I'm going to make enough jars to give to my friends and family this Christmas. Maybe my family in California will finally understand what I've been talking about!
SPICED APPLE BUTTER:
4 lb. flavorful, tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1 inch cubes
1½ cups unfiltered apple cider
1¼ cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. salt
Start by sterilizing jars and lids and washing screw bands. Chill a small plate in the refrigerator to test the butter later.
Combine the apples and cider in a large pot or dutch oven, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the apples are soft. Set aside to cool slightly before transferring to a food processor. Process in batches until smooth and return to the pot (skip the food processor if you prefer a chunkier apple butter).
Add the rest of your ingredients to the puree and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to avoid scorching, until the butter has reached the right consistency, about 1¼ to 1¾ hours (the butter tends to splatter as it simmers, so a splatter screen comes in handy). Start checking for doneness after about 1¼ hours, and remove pot from heat while doing so (to test for doneness, place a spoonful of apple butter on the chilled plate, refrigerate for 1 minute, tilt plate, and you'll know the butter's done if it doesn't run and stays in one place). If the butter requires more time, return it to a simmer and cook for another 15 to 30 minutes and test again.
Ladle apple butter into clean, hot jars (½ pint jars (8 oz.) or jelly jars (4 oz.)), allowing for ¼-inch headspace, and process for 10 minutes. For more information, see my step-by-step guide to canning here.
Yield: about 4 to 5 cups
- Go to your local farmer's market to find really exceptional apples such as McIntosh, Granny Smith, Northern Spy, Cortland, Empire, Macoun, Winesap etc. Let the market be your guide!