I swear, nothing smells better in our house than Fall cooking: pumpkin, cranberries, spices, and of course apples! And I LOVE to eat all the yummy Fall cooking (which is probably why my Winter clothes always seem to be a little snug...hmmm...). One of my favorites is apple butter. Every October, my fiance and I go to the local Apple Butter Fest, where they have huge vats of apples and spices cooking down into homemade apple butter. Usually we stand in the extremely long line to wait and buy a jar of the delicious stuff, but this year with a smaller budget and a longer line, we decided to try making our own instead!
For the record, apple butter is something that I have never made before, so I was a little worried about how this was all going to turn out. I pictured it not tasting right or not having the right texture or all of it burning on the bottom of the crock pot and not being able to be eaten. Insert scary apple butter nightmares here.
Reality: It was soooo easy! And it turned out really delicious. And the best part? It's homemade, so it automatically tastes better!
Okay, so here's the tutorial. Honestly, the hardest parts were peeling all the apples and then waiting for the stuff to cook down (You know, when you can smell all that appley-goodness but can't eat it yet?! You know what I'm talking about...). I definitely recommend making this yourself, not just because it's easy, but also because you know EXACTLY what's going into it and you can control the amount of sugar you use. You wouldn't believe the amount of sugar in store-bought apple butter!
First, get your ingredients:
-1 tsp ground cinnamon
-1 tsp ground cloves
-1 tsp apple pie spice
-1 1/2 cups apple cider (you can use sugar-free if you prefer, but you'll probably end up wanting to add more sugar to taste at the end unless you like a less-sweet flavor in your apple butter)
-Sugar to taste, added 1/4 cup at a time at the very end of the cooking process
Peel, core, and chunk your apples and put them in the crockpot. I used one of those corer-slicer things to make it go quicker.
Add your spices, then add your cider. Stir it up so most of your apples are covered with the spices and cider.
Now comes the hard part...turn the crockpot to "low" and walk away. Your apples need to cook for at least 16 hours, but you might find that after 16 hours it's still not cooked down to a consistency you like. For ours, we cooked it for 20 hours (yes, that's almost one full day--trust me, the wait is worth it!) to get it the thick and smooth consistency we prefer. Okay, don't totally walk away. Make sure to come back and stir it once in a while. I chose to stir it every couple hours at first, because I was around the house, but after about 5 hours I left it alone and only stirred it a few more times during the rest of the cooking process. Stirring it at the beginning is important to make sure it's cooking evenly.
This is about 8 hours into the cooking process. The apples have started to cook down, and at this point your house will smell ah-may-zing!!
This is after 20 hours of cooking. You can see how much everything cooks down and how the color changes. Stir it up and taste it--now is the time to add sugar until it's got the sweetness you prefer. We added 2/3 cup of sugar total to ours to get it to the right flavor that we like, but this is totally up to you!
You can "can" this afterward if you choose, but it's not necessary. This will last in your fridge up to 3 months (if it will even be around that long--around here, it's lucky to last a month!) and this recipe will make enough for a large jar for you and a large jar for a friend--a perfect, homemade gift!
So enjoy your homemade apple butter and make sure to let me know how yours turns out!
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