Apple Butter or Applesauce?


Mary Niehaus RallesI opened up a jar of homemade apple butter today and made myself an apple butter sandwich. I don’t know why it tasted so amazing, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that it was one of my first canning projects last fall. I love the idea that I can enjoy and savor something that reminds me of crisp fall days while I’m in the middle of winter, with barren trees waiting for spring buds. (For more on my thoughts on winter, go to There Will Be Chickens (Of Course!)).

My first canning attempts began last August when one of my best friends gave me everything I needed to start canning, from the Granite-Ware pot to the Mason jars to the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. As an adult, it’s a rare occasion for me to get really excited about birthday gifts, but I’m pretty sure I squealed with delight when I saw the big, blue, granite pot full of utensils.

canning gift

As a kid, I remember my Aunt Barb canning every year. She had metal shelving that seemed to go on forever, with jars of green beans, tomatoes, and corn. Looking back, I have a lot of admiration for her resourcefulness and frugal nature. At the time, it all just looked like a bunch of funny glass jars, almost foreign objects compared to the canned vegetables my mom bought at the grocery store and kept on pantry shelves. Green Giant and Del Monte won out in my formidable years. And GMO and sodium content weren’t a “thing” at that time.

These days as I look back on certain periods of time in my youth, taking things for granted was a recurring theme. I can now better appreciate how extraordinary life can be if we are only willing to invest a little more time. I always went for quick and convenient. Ironically, as time unwinds, I find the slower path so much more intriguing.

So, when I set about making apple butter last fall, I gave this consideration as I worked through the process of my apple butter recipe. After going through the steps to place the softened apples through a food mill — once the peels have been removed — you return it to the burner to simmer. Applesauce comes first as you constantly stir and watch the pot (contrary to popular belief that a watched pot never boils). This stirring and watching continues for a fair amount of time as the apples become hot enough to caramelize and turn brown.

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