Near the end of apple-picking season, there are always a few apples rolling around the back of your crisper drawer. Those lonely fruits get bruised and mealy, but since they aren’t downright bad, you leave them there for as long as they’ll last…a constant reminder that you’re wasting food. But fear not: You don’t actually have to eat them in their sad, post-crisp condition to get your money’s worth. Instead, toss them in the slow cooker with a little brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla, and you’ve got apple butter.
While there’s nothing wrong with picking up a jar at your local farmer’s market, apple butter is incredibly easy to make at home — and versatile, to boot. Spoon it warm over vanilla ice cream, spread it on a thick slice of buttered toast and homemade biscuits, or add it to your fall charcuterie board (it pairs beautifully with sharp cheddar). Keep reading to learn all about this seasonal delicacy.
The Benefits of No-Peel Apple Butter
Apple butter cooks down just fine on a stove, but you have to watch it carefully and stir every 10 minutes or so. If not, you run the risk of making applesauce instead; apple butter needs to be cooked for a longer time in order to help the fruit caramelize. In my opinion, your crock pot is your best bet for making an easy apple butter with a velvety consistency.
Of course, many of us dread making any sort of apple-y dessert because of the coring and peeling process. Who wants to stand over the garbage can for half an hour scraping skin off fruit? That’s why this recipe is so enticing; you core these apples, but don’t peel them. Simply use an apple slicer to remove the core and seeds, then toss the wedges into the crock pot with brown sugar, lemon juice, spices, and vanilla. The key to a smooth consistency with no trace of gritty peel? Toss the cooked apple into a blender halfway through, blend, then transfer the mixture back to the slow cooker. It’s a win-win: less time cooking, same delicious flavor and texture, and as a bonus, better health benefits.
It’s true — you lose a lot of nutrients when you toss the peel. Apple skin contains half the fiber in the entire fruit (when comparing one medium, peeled apple to one medium apple with skin). The peel also has additional calcium, magnesium, potassium, and, most importantly, quercetin. A potent antioxidant that reduces lung inflammation, quercetin is found exclusively in apple peels. Better yet, research shows that this antioxidant doesn’t break down when it’s cooked. (Worth mentioning: The research was performed on onions, which are another excellent source of quercetin, but the study still shows that the nutrient doesn’t break down during various cooking methods.)
How To Preserve Apple Butter
Though apple butter is one of the easiest fall recipes, you’ll still need to carve out some prep time if you want to preserve it. This spread is most delicious when it’s fresh, but that freshness means it doesn’t last longer than a month in the fridge — unless you sterilize the jars. Check out these canning how-to’s to ensure you create a delicious spread with no hiccups.
Do I need to boil my jars?
If you want your apple butter to last a long time, boiling your canning jars is highly recommended. However, if you think you’ll consume it in about a week, a very clean jar will do just fine.
To sterilize jars, you’ll need: the jars, two large pots, plenty of water, and tongs. Here’s how to clean and sterilize your jars to create preserved apple butter:
- Bring a large pot of water to simmer. (The amount of water you need depends on your jars’ size and quantity.)
- Clean jars by hand or in the dishwasher. Take this time to inspect them and confirm they’re in good condition.
- Place empty jars right side up in the second (empty) pot. The pot must be big enough for the water to completely cover the jars, with an additional inch of water on top.
- Pour hot (not boiling) water from first pot into second pot, submerging jars.
- Bring water to a boil. Once rolling, set timer for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, turn off heat. You may leave jars in hot water up to 1 hour, if you wish.
- Remove jars from water with clean tongs, and set aside on a very clean surface.
As for the jar lids and rings? Once you remove the jars, place the lids and rings in the water and turn up the heat until the water reaches a simmer. Let the lids and rings simmer for 10 minutes to sterilize.
How do I seal the jars to preserve the apple butter?
Here’s what to do when you’re ready to can the apple butter:
- Set a large pot of water to boil.
- Ladle hot apple butter into jars, just up to the base of the neck. Leave ½ inch for air.
- Wipe jar rims with damp towel to clean.
- Place metal lids on jars, screw rings on.
- Gently lower jars back into water while it’s simmering. (Silicone tongs with grip are good for this.) When it reaches a roiling boil, set timer for 10 minutes and let boil.
- Turn off heat. Remove jars from water and let rest on folded towel. Let cool for 12 hours.
Test the seals on each jar by unscrewing the ring and pulling on the lid. If the lid releases, the seal didn’t form. (No worries — just eat those jars of apple butter within a month.)
Remember: You don’t have to sterilize and seal your apple butter jars if you’re going to eat this spread quickly.
Does apple butter contain butter?
Nope. The term “butter” just implies that it has a smooth, butter-like consistency. It gets that smooth texture from a long, slow cooking process.
Can I use bruised or mealy apples to make it?
Absolutely. Apple butter is one of the greatest ways to use up old apples. Just make sure that your fruit isn’t too far gone; if the bruising is excessive or you notice mold, throw that apple in the trash or compost bin.
Do I need to wash my apples before cooking?
Yes. Check out our guide to washing fruit to remove dirt, pesticides, and bacteria.
Is apple butter just applesauce?
Not exactly. Think of apple butter as applesauce that’s been cooked down even further.
If you’re ready to create the easiest apple butter out there, check out the below recipe inspired by StrengthandSunshine.com.
Note: This recipe is big, and calls for six pounds of apples, or about 18 medium-sized apples. For your convenience, we’ve also included the proportions for a smaller recipe using nine apples.
Homemade No-Peel Apple Butter Recipe
- (about 18 medium apples)
- 1 c. brown sugar
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp. ground Allspice
- 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- (about 9)
- 1/2 c. brown sugar
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground Allspice
- 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
Cut cored apples into wedges. Place wedges in large crock pot. Cover with remaining ingredients.
Cover and cook high, 4 hours. (No mixing)
Remove lid. Mash apples gently with masher. Transfer to large blender; blend until smooth.
Pour mix back into slow cooker, cover slightly ajar. Cook 4 to 5 hours, until thick. Mix every hour.
Let cool; store in glass jars.