Crock-pot Apple Butter

After last year’s last-minute teacher-gift debacle just before the holidays, I vowed to be more prepared in 2010. Because as much as I love going to thrift stores, I don’t particularly enjoy scouring all of them in the metro Indianapolis area in a 24-hour period  in order to find adequate vessels for holding homemade tea blends. In the end, last year’s gift-giving went ok, excepting the loss of hair (I pulled it out) and emotional energy (it was The Holidays, after all).

This year, I’m rocking it. I’m so on top of things, I’m honestly waiting for the ball to drop; looking for ways it can all go wrong. One scenario involves my walking to the basement to bring up the jarred gifts to wrap, and none of the jars are sealed anymore (can that happen? anyone?). In another nightmare fantasy, a house fire consumes the jars, and their contents and glass explosions feed the flames (because, if my house burned down, at the very top of my worries would be the botched teacher gifts).

But the jars. They are filled with homemade apple butter. After my first (somewhat) failed attempt, I made a second go, inspired by my friend Jane’s crockpot recipe. I am still tweaking the spices in my recipe, but each batch has been delicious, and quite worthy of a jar. Since fruits are acidic enough to be safely water-bath canned, no pressure canner is necessary, and the canning is a breeze. The very best part is the price: I bought 40 pounds of apples (“seconds” — which means they’re not very pretty, but make great apple sauce and butter) from our local orchard (Wilds Apple Farm) for $20. From that investment, I’ll probably end up with 18 pints of apple butter and a dozen or so quarts of apple sauce. That’s a twenty well-spent.

There are a couple of catches. As far as equipment, a food mill makes your job a lot easier. Mainly because it relieves you of the necessity of peeling or coring your apples. If you don’t have one, you can still make wonderful butter, but you might have an acute case of carpal-tunnel to go with. Probably a worthy trade-off, in the long-run. If you can the jars*, it’ll help to have a canning kit and a very large stockpot. This recipe uses sucanat (“SUgar CAne NATural” sold under brand name Rapadura, or in bulk at a health food store), which lends a slight molasses-y flavor and allows the finished product to be completely free of refined sugars.

* If you don’t want to bother with canning, you can simply freeze the apple butter in jars or bags; it’ll last a few weeks, once thawed, in your refrigerator.

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Crock-pot Apple Butter
(a marriage of recipes from The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook and Jane Moore)

makes about 3 pints, with some leftover

  • about 6 pounds apples (any variety — seconds are cheaper and work great)
  • 2 1/2 cups sucanat (Rapadura) or combination of white and brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider, apple juice, or water
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (raw, unfiltered is best)
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves

Wash apples well (peel and core if you won’t be using a food mill), and cut into small chunks (I quarter the apple, then cut each quarter in half). Fill your crock pot with the apples.

Add the rest of the ingredients, cover, and turn on high. Let cook for one hour, then turn heat down to low, and cook for another 8 hours (remove lid during last hour of cooking). Can stir occasionally, but it’s not necessary.

Let cool, and run mixture through a food mill (I use the biggest grated screen first, then run it through again on the medium-grate).  If your apples were already peeled and cored, you can simply mash with a potato masher, or for smoother texture use a hand-held stick blender or food processor.

For canning, use a water bath process for 10 minutes (I bring the apple butter back to a simmer in a stockpot on the stove before pouring it into hot jars).

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This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday, hosted by GNOWFGLINS, A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa, Sustainable Eats, and Culinary Bliss.

11 thoughts on “Crock-pot Apple Butter

  1. I hate “the holidays” – yuck! Last year I waited until the last minute to crochet slipper socks for everyone. Talk about a nightmare! I love my foodmill. I tried to make tomato sauce without one, and after having somebody ask if we were having a domestic dispute (I was arguing with myself with the windows open), I finally sucked it up and bought one. As soon as I started using it relief flooded through my body. I love the idea of making apple butter in the crockpot!

    1. Amy, I got my food mill for Christmas last year, with the sole intention of making apple sauce. For this bushel of apples alone it has been worth it. I love it, and can’t wait to use it for more things (like canning tomato sauce!).

  2. Gage has been loving Apple Butter on toast, I think I bought at Spencer Farms. I might have to try this recipe.

    As far as teacher gift giving goes, I am a huge fail. Without completely failing, of course. I hit up Starbucks, at the last minute for, GC’s. I know, total fail.

  3. Glad you keep trying the apple butter and it looks really good – I am going to print this and try it next year.
    I have all my apple butter ready to go to give as teacher, friend, and neighbor gifts. You are I are thinking alike.

    Did I mention I tried my recipe (with much less sugar) with peaches? Peach butter is yummy.

  4. Hi Katy – Just wanted to let you know that I made two batches of apple butter using your recipe today and it came out perfect! I actually decreased the amount of sucanat by 1/2 cup in the first batch, and then by a cup in the second batch (because I ran out!), and I couldn’t really tell a difference. If I can get my hands on some more apples (do you know of any orchards still selling?), I’ll make more apple butter!

    Also, if you EVER see sucanat on sale at Angelo’s again for $12, will you please tell me? I went this weekend and scored a 25 lb. bag of Bob’s Red Mill flaxseed meal for $10. It’s a staple in my granola recipe, and I’d been buying it for $4.95/lb. (!!) from Green BEAN Delivery, so this was a great deal!

    1. If I see sucanat again, I’ll pick it up for you! I got a bag of organic basmati rice, and a bag of dried coconut last Friday. I’ve been buying 5 gallon buckets from Lowe’s to keep my stores. My basement is starting to look like a stockpile — like we’re waiting for some sort of disaster.

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