Some Classic Traditions Take Less Work Than Others
Before pumpkin-spice flavoring came along, the warm aroma of apples simmering was the ultimate expression of autumn. Apple butter was its most concentrated form—a version of applesauce cooked down patiently at the back of the old wood stove until it became a smooth spread with a deep flavor and rich, caramelized brown hue. This Crock-Pot apple butter recipe captures that old-timey flavor beautifully, but requires a lot less effort. You can leave it on all day and finish it after the kids are in bed, or put it on after work and wrap it up in the morning after breakfast.
Total Time: 10 to 12 hours | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Serves: 6 cups
- 5 to 6 pounds apples
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6-inch cinnamon stick, or 2 3-inch cinnamon sticks
- Spray the insert of a 6-quart Crock-Pot, or line it with a slow cooker liner bag.
- Cut, core and peel the apples. Rough-chop them into pieces approximately 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, then toss them in a mixing bowl with the sugar and ground spices. Transfer the apples and spices to your slow cooker. Break the cinnamon stick into several pieces and nestle those into the apples. Then cover the slow cooker. Simmer the apples on low overnight or all day, approximately 8 to 10 hours.
- Uncover the Crock-Pot and remove the cinnamon stick pieces. Whisk vigorously or puree with a "stick" blender, to make the apple butter smooth. Cook uncovered for up to another 2 hours, until the apple butter is thick and spreadable.
- Using a sterile ladle, scoop the finished apple butter into sterile mason jars or freezer-safe storage containers. Leave about 1/2 inch of space at the top of each container for the apple butter to expand as it freezes. Refrigerate one for immediate use, and freeze the remainder. Your open jar will last about 2 weeks in the refrigerator; the apple butter in the frozen containers will remain safe indefinitely, but tastes best within 2 to 3 months.
- This recipe is scaled for a 6-quart slow cooker. As a rough guide, you can start with a pound of apples for every quart of your slow cooker's size, and every pound of apples will cook down to approximately a cup of finished apple butter. Your actual yield will depend on the apple varieties you choose: Juicier apples must cook down further to create a thick apple butter.
- For the best and deepest flavor, choose a variety of sweet and tart apples. The more kinds of apples you use, the better it will taste.
- Recipes for apple butter vary wildly in their sugar content, from around 2 to 4 cups of sugar for this quantity of apples. High-sugar recipes are intended for canning, and if they're water-bath canned they'll keep at room temperature for months. Low-sugar recipes such as this one have a better flavor, but must be refrigerated. Both are good.
- If you don't regularly keep cinnamon sticks in your cupboard, use a teaspoon of ground cinnamon instead.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.