We grew up eating Plum Butter, pflaumenmus in German. I love the rich, tart sweetness of it. It’s nice and thick. And the dark blue purple colour is glorious.
But as I grew up, here in Ontario, the world of apples became more and more identifiable. Quintessentially North American apple desserts like pie, crisp, dumplings, cobblers, and bettys, were what the stores, tv shows, and magazines featured. I remember learning to make apple crisp in school. The only apple dessert I even remember my mom making for us was baked apples. And we got so excited for them! Even though apples were not common in my mom’s repertoire, she quickly embraced them as we started bringing home suggestions (read: childlike demands!)
Apple Butter was a new recipe for me, as it was’t something my mom was used to cooking. And when a kid is 12, 14 years old, they think that what their parents do is old fashioned, backwards. I wanted to try ‘new’ things. How pathetic. It wasn’t till years later that I came to appreciate all that my mother could and did make for us. Her style of cooking was typically European, with French dishes thrown in for good measure. It wasn’t until a decade or so back that what I had been taking for granted my whole life, was gaining a renaissance here in North America. Suddenly my mom’s cooking was trendy! Who knew?
So, apple butter. Definitely a tad more cloying than the plum butter I knew. But it was that combination of spices, the warm cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice that made me break out in a smile. A family friend is the first one who made it for me, when I was a teenager. I loved it on toast, in cereal or sandwiched between two cookies. It wasn’t till years later that I learned to appreciate serving it in a savoury way, on cheese and crackers etc. But I lost her recipe…sad.
Good ole Pinterest directed me to a great recipe at Whipperberry. I tried it and it was exactly what I remembered. I do let it cook down till very thick. I wanted to leave applesauce way back in my dust. Her recipe calls for using a crockpot. I don’t have one. So I just use an enameled Le Crueset dutch oven and cook on low. It works very well. I will include my time adjustments in the recipe.
You will peel, core and chop a variety of apples and cook them on low with cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves. In no time the juices are released, and within an hour and half or so, you have glorious apple sauce. Give it a quick purée with an immersion blender or your stand blender, and put it back on the stove (or crock pot) Continue cooking on low until it has thickened. You will be cooking it slightly uncovered. It will ‘plop’ as it cooks down. Stir it regularly to keep it from sticking or scorching on the bottom. And beware of renegade plops- they hurt on direct contact!!
This is the perfect butter to make my Apple Butter Custard Pie with. And when making apple butter, the same as for apple sauce, feel free to use a combination of apples- they add layers of flavour!
In the years since I first started making this, I started combining pears with the apples. They add another layer of flavour and sweetness. And because of their natural sweetness, I can cut way back on the sugar. I have even used this method to make pure pear butter. And pear butter, if cooked down enough, makes a great pie as well, using my Custard Pie recipe above.
Here’s my one tip for this recipe. You know you’ve cooked it down enough, if a wooden spoon stands up in the butter! Once it cools, it will thicken even more. I would rather have it on the thicker side. This isn’t apple sauce. It should be a rich, dark, smooth spread. Now, I have made it where I didn’t purée it overly much, leaving a few bits for texture. This is great for when you are serving it as is, as a spread on cheese or inside cookies etc.
As with so many recipes, wouldn’t it be amazing if our computers and phones had a ‘scratch and sniff’ feature! Because this apple butter has the most fragrant, autumnal, spicy aroma. This is why I stay in the kitchen. And wish for a perfume that smells like this!! Oh, and for the best homemade plum butter, you will find it here!
In the first photo below, I used a combination of pears with the apples, which seems to have altered the dark colour a tad. But it tastes amazing, so who will really mind?!
RICH APPLE BUTTER
- 8-10 medium apples, any combination is fine (approx 3-4 lbs), peeled, cored, chopped
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp cinnamon (per liking)
- 1 tsp vanilla powder (or extract)
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- pinch of kosher salt
Mix all ingredients in a crockpot. (I use a heavy bottomed pot on top of the stove)
Cook on low in crockpot for 10 hours, stirring if possible. On the stove top, I cook on low for about 1.5-2 hours. This will vary with the type of apple, heat of stove etc. Cook until the mixture is thick and dark brown.
Remove the lid, and blend the apple mixture with an immersion blender till smooth. Alternatively you can purée it in a blender and then return it to the pot. You can blend till just broken down, or till velvety smooth. It is up to you.
Cook slightly uncovered in the crockpot for an additional 1-2 hours. I cook mine on the stove top at medium low for an additional 1/2 hour or so, until it is very thick, pulling away from the walls of the pot. Stir regular to avoid it burning on the bottom of the pan. It should be completely spreadable, spoon standing up in it, not runny! Be careful as it bubbles- the 'plops' can hurt if they hit you- hot!!
Store in sterilized jar(s) in fridge for up to 2 weeks. Or freeze in appropriate containers
This makes 2 cups or so, depending on the apples and how reduced you like it. This is one of these recipes that will vary with the type of apple you are using. Bottom line, if using as a spread, cook down till you have achieved the consistency you like. I like mine thick. If I am using for Apple Butter Custard pie, I want it at least the consistency of pumpkin puree or a tad thicker.
Spices are to your liking. They will concentrate as they cook down. You may want to taste before you blend up. Adjust at this point.
Feel free to replace half of the apples with pears. If using pears, reduce the sugars to 1/3 cup each. The pears have more of a sweetness, so the additional sugar won't be needed.
Adapted from Whipperberry Apple Butter