Grit Blogs > Rural Legend

Apple Butter Time

Brent and LeAnna Alderman StersteIf I had to choose one taste to remind me of childhood, it would be homemade biscuits (my maternal grandmother’s recipe) spread with homemade apple butter made by my paternal  grandmother. I inherited my grandma’s apple butter kettle, which is a large traditional copper kettle blackened with use, which stands on four cast-iron legs to be used over an outdoor fire. It looks a lot like this one they use at my parents’ church. That’s my dad stirring the apple butter.

Dad stirring the apple butter kettle at their church in West Virginia.

I dream of getting my grandma’s kettle cleaned up someday and using it again, but for now we are forced to make our apple butter indoors. This year we bought a bushel of low-spray Ginger Gold apples from our friend’s farm.  A whole lot of them were eaten straight off, but we did manage to save some for canning.

We used an old-fashioned peeler to prep the apples, which worked great. Ella in particular loved cranking the handle.  (The worms loved the peelings.)

Our new, old-fashioned hand-crank apple-peeler.

After we peeled all the apples, we gave them a coarse chop so they’d cook down faster.   We finally found a way to keep our preschooler busy while we were work: We gave her a butter knife and some apple slices and set her to work.  She took her work very seriously and ultimately declared, “I love helping you cook, Daddy!”

Ella was a great helper with apple chopping.

All those chopped up apples went into a stock pot along with a bit of fresh apple cider to start them steaming.

The apples cooked down with just a bit of cider to get them steaming.

When they were very soft, after an hour or so, Brent mashed them up with a potato masher, all the while regretting having given away his immersion blender years ago.  Once we had a fairly smooth apple sauce, we added lots of cinnamon and some sugar.   This lovely, fall-ish concotion simmered for another hour or so until it had cooked down by about a third and, most importantly, it looked and tasted like apple butter. We packed the hot apple butter into sterilized jam jars. While lots of old-timers will just let the jars seal themselves, we processed ours for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.  Here’s our finished product all set for winter eating and for giving as Christmas gifts.

The finished jars of apple butter.

After we made this, Brent found an amazing sounding recipe for Pear Caramel Butter, and we decided to try that too.  We made some changes to the recipe that we’re quite pleased with.  We left out the lemon juice, cut the nutmeg down to just a pinch or so, and added a couple teaspoons of vanilla extract.  It made a fantastic spread and is definitely worth your trying!  We enjoy it spread on all kinds of things – pancakes, biscuits, and of course, a spoon.

How’s your fall canning going?

doris long_2
1/27/2010 10:46:44 AM

I noticed the color of your apple butter and thought I'd let you know how I make it. When you are ready to add the cinnamon and sugar you can place all in a large roaster and put it in the oven at a very low temperature. Stir occasionally and cook until it turns dark brown. It looks more like what you buy in the store and has a wonderful taste.

s.m.r. saia
11/30/2009 8:08:53 AM

I tried to make some apple butter this weekend and it didn't turn out. It was my first time. Wish I'd read this before I started!!!! It looks wonderful.

11/27/2009 10:02:23 AM

Yum! Our apples, after looking like they'd produce well, did not survive our crazy summer weather, so we'll have to make our last few jars of apple butter from the previous two years last through the winter. Yours looks delicious.

sheryl renfrow
11/17/2009 9:40:30 PM

I, too, love making apple butter. May I suggest you quarter the apples, remove the core and drop them in the stockpot with their peelings on. Peeling the apples removes so many nutrients and flavor. Barely cover the bottom of the stockpot with water, cover the pot and start with the lowest fire to get them going. The juice in the peeling will add more moisture as the apples cook. When the apples are mushy, (stir often while cooking), put them through a colander to remove the peeling. You will have only a cup or so after they have cooked down. Put the pulp back in the pot, add the sugar and cinnamon and I stir in a package of cinnamon red hots. The red hots add more flavor and give such a beautiful color to the apple butter. I'm 64 and I've made it this way for years. My grandchildren can sit down and eat a whole pint if left to their likes.

sheryl renfrow
11/17/2009 9:09:44 PM

I'm 64 and have made apple butter for years. My grandchildren can eat a whole pint at one sitting if left to their likes. May I make a few suggestions? Simply quarter and core the apples, leave the peeling on, put them in a pot with the bottom barely covered with water. The peeling left on elimates work, excess time, adds flavor and moisture to the butter. Put the pulp through a colander to remove the peel after the apples become mushy. When adding the sugar and cinnamon, also stir in a bag of cinnamon red hots. The red hots add more flavor and gives the apple butter a beautiful color. Try it-you'll like it!

paul gardener
10/27/2009 6:11:06 PM

We just harvested a couple bushels of various kinds of apples from a friends home too! I've never made apple butter but we're planning on it soon. As an aside, I would be cautious in changing canning recipies particularly in cutting down the acidic elements like lemon. Many recipies have been tested to have safe levels of acids based on the foods and methods used to prevent bocculism. Caramel pear sounds great though! Great post. Paul Gardener~

10/27/2009 7:25:02 AM

well I thought my fall canning was done but now I can't wait to make some apple butter with the apples we just bought! It looks delicious. vickie