Apple butter is a highly concentrated form of apple sauce produced by long, slow cooking of apples to a point where the sugar in the apples caramelize turning the apple butter a deep brown. Originating in the Middle Ages at monasteries with apple orchards, the secret to making this delicious preserve came over to colonial America with the settlers. Apple butter originated as a way to store apples without refrigeration, before canning was available. Groups would get together for an all-day affair that involved big kettles filled with apples, cider and spices that required constant stirring with big wooden paddles.
Everything you would ever need to know about the historical methods of making apple butter and a recipe to make your own with original methods can be found on the skill cult blog. It’s author encouraged me to try to the historical version but a bit leery on the food safety question, I decided sterilizing jars and finishing off with a good hard boil in a canner was a surer bet.
My recipe is a modern version using a crockpot, an apple peeler (can peel by hand) and an immersion blender (can use a blender or a whisk) and requires no all-day wooden paddle manning. Maybe I’m missing out although I’m happily married to my swain, The Handyman…
Here is where the fun came in, or the ladle was too large, in theory, at least, to be handled by one person, and it was customary for the girls and boys in pairs to take turns in stirring. The lady always had the choice of a partner to assist her when her turn came, and whichever swain she selected was regarded by the others as her favourite beau… The Conquest of Missouri, Joseph Mills Hanson, 1918
Step One: Apples
Step 2 Peel
Step 3 Fill your crock-pot
Step 4 Add sugar and spices
Step 5 Cook on low for about 10 hours
Step 6 Water bath can your apple butter. Sterilize your canning jars, fill them leaving 1/4 inch head space, wipe rims clean, place your lids on and place in a canner filled with boiling water and boil for 15 minutes.