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In the days before food mills and blenders, applesauce had character. It wasn't the neutered thing that sits there, pale and textureless, lacking in flavor and hoping to be more than just babyfood. No, this is a flavorful food, suitable for dessert, baking, and yes, babyfood, or as a side dish with dinner.
Apple butter is just applesauce left a little too long on the stove, cooked until it is thick and spreadable. The flavor enriches, darkens, and deepens, and just leaps off the pancakes or waffles to grab your tongue in a delightful burst.
Both were traditionally made with whatever apples came through that were not suitable for storage or fresh eating, and which were not needed for pie filling or candied apples. You made applesauce or butter out of the worst of the apples. The bruised and wormy ones, with only half an apple left to trim out and toss in the pot.
This is why there is NO traditional "recipe" with set measurements. You threw in however many apples you had. You spiced it until it smelled right. Then you sugared it until it tasted right. Because every batch was a little different size, and a little different flavor to begin with.
Applesauce was cooked down in a large pot. Apple butter was often cooked down in a dutch oven on the stove (needed frequent tending), or in a dutch oven or roaster in the oven.
Today, it is easier to use either a crock pot, or a Nesco style roaster oven. If you use a roaster oven, you need to remember to keep it turned down VERY low, and to stir the EDGES, or it will have problems.
The advantage to both of these is that you can do it low and slow, so you only need to run by and stir it every hour or two, if that. I leave mine overnight in the crock pot much of the time.
You DO have to peel and core the apples. Yes, you can use one of those peeler corer slicer crank gadgets to do it. But you do NOT have to process the apples any further in any way other than a light mashing if you want. The cooker does all the work for you.
Peel and core the apples. Cut them in quarters, you don't need to do more than that.
Toss them in the pot, and add about 1-2 cups of water, depending on how many apples you have. I use 1 cup for 5 lbs of apples, and 2 cups for 10 lbs. I know this because my small crock pot holds about 5 lbs, and my large one holds about 10 lbs. The water is just enough to help the apples steam down - they'll have plenty of juice once they get softening.
Cook until the apples are soft and mashable. LIGHTLY mash them with a potato masher, just enough to break them up so there are no large chunks (ok, if you LIKE chunks, you can have chunks, my Pa liked chunks!).
Cook it down until it no longer looks watery.
NOTE: Many people do not want their applesauce to darken much. If you keep cooking it, it DOES darken. This is traditional. Yellow applesauce is just NOT NORMAL! (Please smile!)
Add a nice dusting of cinnamon over the top. Then add about half that amount of pumpkin pie spice. You can put in nutmeg if you like it. You can also add vanilla if you like that. This part is VERY flexible. Add what SMELLS good.
Cook again for half an hour to an hour - long enough for the spices to really meld in. Taste it - sometimes it needs no sugar, sometimes it does, depending on your preference and the type of apples used.
Add sugar or other sweetener if it needs. Add sugar to TASTE.
Go get your jars ready, and let it cook a little more to incorporate the sugar, while you get your jars ready. It should cook for at least 15 minutes after you add the sugar.
Put it in the jars, wipe the rims, put the lids on.
Waterbath process for 15 min for pints, or 20 min for quarts.
It is exactly the same as applesauce, except you cook it down until it is very dark, and thick enough to spread.
After mashing the apples, tilt the lid on the pot, or remove it, to let the apples reduce and steam off the excess moisture.
Cook it down until it is dark and thick, BEFORE you add the spices and sugars, because THAT is the point at which the flavors need to be right. The thicker butter has more concentrated flavors, so the spice and sugar balance is different.
Some people add allspice, or cloves to apple butter, preferring a more sweetly spicy flavor than they want for their applesauce. Me, I like it mellow.
Bottle it up, wipe the rims, put lids on the jars.
Waterbath process for 10 minutes for pints or half pints.
When I give gifts of home canned goods, Apple Butter is at the top of other people's want list. They like jam. They enjoy fruit syrup. They appreciate soups or other meals in jars. But their eyes light up with delight when you mention Apple Butter. It is one of those special foods few people make anymore, and the commercial versions just ARE NOT very good! They lack the rich intensely concentrated apple flavor of properly cooked apple butter.
This is so easy using a crock pot, pretty much anyone can do it, even if their life is busy.
The information on this site is presented for informational purposes only, and consists of the opinions and experiences of the site authors. It is not to be construed as medical advice or to be used to diagnose or treat any illness. Seek the assistance of a medical professional in implementing any nutritional changes with the goal of treating any medical condition. The historical and nutritional information presented here can be verified by a simple web search.
I do what I do because I understand the science behind it, and I've researched worldwide sources to verify the safety of my practices to my own satisfaction. Please do your own research, and proceed AT YOUR OWN RISK.