When I first came across the term Apple Butter, I was genuinely surprised, and intrigued. I had heard of Herb butters, which is nothing but mixing some herbs in regular butter to give it a unique flavor, but Apple Butter, seriously? Do you just mix Apple with Butter?? So I sent across a query on the net trying to gain the answer to my question – What is Apple Butter? Well, it turns out that there was nothing too fancy or exciting about the reveal.
Apple butter is essentially a thicker and spicier version of applesauce, traditionally made by slow-cooking sliced or pureed apples in copper kettles for up to 12 hours or more. The apples are constantly stirred with long paddles. The heat causes the fruit’s natural sugars to caramelize, thus giving apple butter its distinctive deep brown color. And No, it does not contain any Butter as such, the name is only significant because of its thick, buttery texture, and the fact that people use it as a spread on their sandwiches. So its not much different from Apple jam, really.
Anyways, leaving the name technicality behind, it is indeed a wonderful spread to slather on your toasts in the morning. It is also a great addition to baked goods, as well as a healthier alternative to store-bought jams and jellies. And as its homemade, you can control the thickness and texture, I like mine to be a bit chunky, reminds me of the Apple Jam that my Mom used to make for us as kids, so I stuck to my childhood memories and kept my Apple Butter, a little thick and chunky. But you can go ahead and puree the apples to make it smooth, like any other jam or jelly. One more thing, if you are going to make the smooth, pureed version, you do not even need to peel the apples. Just cook them, along with the skin, then puree them and pass the mixture through a sieve, where the peel will get discarded. This way you will preserve more nutrients that are present in an apple skin.
Chunky Apple Butter
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 1 hour
Yields: 2 cups
8 medium to large red apples
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup apple juice (or cider)
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1 tsp cinnamon powder (optional)
Peel and core the apples if you want a chunky Apple Butter; if you want the smooth one, you can even leave the skin on and just chop the apples into big chunks. Toss the chunks in the lemon juice and coat evenly to prevent them from being too brown or black.
Take a big wok or pan and let it heat on medium-high flame. Add the apples, brown sugar and apple juice; lower the heat to medium-low, and let the apples cook for almost an hour. Cover with a glass lid, and keep stirring once in a while to make the apples mushy. As they cook, they will disintegrate and become small chunks, just like jam preserves.
When they are almost done, about 45 minutes, add the vanilla essence, nutmeg and cinnamon. Check for sugar, ad add more if needed. By now the apples must have taken a deep brown color. remove them from flame and allow to cool to room temperature.
If you want chunky jam, just take a ladle and mash some of the cooked fruit to get your desired consistency. However, if you want a smooth, buttery spread, transfer the apples to a blender or food processor, and gently whip to form a smooth blend. If you are using un-peeled apples, pass the mixture through a sieve to remove the skins. You will get a highly concentrated apple puree which has enough pectin, thanks to the skin, to keep your Apple Butter fresh for at least a month.
Store your Apple Butter in sterilized, air-tight glass jars. I made the chunky version, and I have been relishing it for 3 weeks now, so I think these should stay good for more than a month. If you’d like to store them for the whole year, you can just use the Canning Techniques outlined in my post for making Homemade Fruit Jams, and proceed the same way.
Now that you know how to make this truly decadent Apple Butter, go ahead and use it to flavor your breakfast breads, or use it as a healthy spread when making Grilled Fruit & Cheese sandwiches for your kids. You can even use it as a dip with cut fruits, crackers and more, instead of Peanut butter, or just add a dollop to your ice creams and desserts to give them a unique apple flavor.