How to Make Homemade Apple Butter - Easily!
You think making and canning your own apple butter is difficult? Well, it used to be! Until crock pots and slow cookers came along!
Now, it's easy! Here's how to do it, complete instructions in easy steps and completely illustrated. The apple butter will taste MUCH better than anything you've ever had from a store. You can make with sugar, with no sugar and no sweetener, or with another sweetener (all described below)
Prepared this way, the jars have a shelf life of 18 months to 2 years, and require no special attention. A side benefit is that your house will smell wonderful while it is cooking - much better than potpourri! You can also skip the last canning steps, and just store it in your refrigerator for up to 2 or 3 months or freezer (indefinitely).
And be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this page to see many suggestions for how to use and eat your apple butter!
Directions for Making Apple Butter
Yields about 9 - 10 pints
Ingredients and Equipment
- 9 quarts of Applesauce, fresh or canned (See step 1)
- 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon of allspice
- 2 to 4 cups sugar or Stevia, my preference (or if you prefer, Splenda), or an equivalent amount of sweetness to taste, from honey, stevia or frozen concentrated apple or white grape juice. Sugar is optional - some people find it sweet enough for their taste without adding any sweetener.
- Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars)
- Lid lifter (has a magnet to pick the lids out of the boiling water where you sanitize them. ($2 at Target, other big box stores, and often grocery stores; and available online - see this page)
- Jar funnel ($2 at Target, other big box stores, and often grocery stores; and available online - see this page)
- 1 Crock pot (slow cooker) 6 quart size (if your crockpot is smaller, just reduce the ingredients proportionately)
- Large spoons and ladles
- 1 Canner (a huge pot to sanitize the jars of apple butter after filling (about $30 to $35 at mall kitchen stores, sometimes at big box stores and grocery stores.))
- Ball jars (Grocery stores, like Publix, Kroger, Safeway carry them, as do some big box stores - about $8 per dozen quart jars including the lids and rings)
Apple Butter Recipe and Directions
Step 1 - Make unsweetened applesauce!
That's right, apple butter starts with applesauce! You can use store bought applesauce, but the apple butter won't taste nearly as good. It's better with your own applesauce (either previously canned or fresh made). So if you haven't made some applesauce yet start here with how to make applesauce. Otherwise continue to step 2.
Step 2 - Fill the crock pot
Fill the crock pot to within an inch of full with applesauce, mine takes about 5.5 quarts. You will add the remaining applesauce later, in step 5. Now, you CAN do this using a regular large pot on very low heat on the stove, but the crockpot works much better, because its heat is very low. I've never had a batch burn in the crockpot.
Step 3 -Add the spices
- 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon of allspice
- 2 cups sugar (the other 2 cups are used in step 4)
Sugar is optional - some people find it sweet enough for their taste without adding any sweetener.. Just taste and see if you like it without sugar first. In place of sugar, you can use an equivalent amount Splenda (or about 1/3 that if you use Stevia, which is my preference) (sucralose) OR 1 twelve ounce can of frozen concentrated fruit juice (preferably a neutral juice, like white grape or apple). You could use honey, also. The sweetener is present ONLY for your taste, not as a preservative, so you can use anything that is heat-stable, in quantities that suit your own tastes.
You can skip the sweeteners entirely, too; but it loses a lot of the richness of flavor, in my opinion. 95% of folks seem to like using a total of 2 to 4 cups of sugar. Some folks prefer 3 cups of honey instead, and diabetics obviously like Stevia, my preference (or if you prefer, Splenda).
Step 4 - Cook down the Apple butter
Set the crock pot on low or medium heat. I would recommend starting with low heat because you do not want to risk burning the apple butter (you can't get the burned taste out). If, after 8 hours or so , the applesuace / apple butter has not cooked down visibly, then step up the heat to the next setting. Every crockpot is different, so you just going to get to know which setting works best on your crock pot.
Cover it loosely or use a large pot splatter-guard. It will spatter as it boils slowly, so I also cover nearby surfaces with towels. You don't want to seal it tightly because you want the steam to escape so it can reduce in volume and thicken. A visitor suggests, take a couple of butter knives, and lay them across the top of the crock pot. They are parallel and located about 2/3 of the way out from the center. Then put the lid on these supports, leaving it "covering" the pot and keeping the splatters under control, but, leaving a good gap for steam to escape. I just made a batch and tried this approach, but I used a pair of wooden chopsticks or bamboo kebab skewers - they worked great!
Leave it to cook for 6 - 18 hours. How long depends on the size and power of your crockpot, and how thick you like it, If you want to stir it occasionally, that's fine but not necessary. I start mine around 8 pm on high for 1 hour, then on medium until I am ready for bed around midnight, then leave it on low overnight.
But do be careful: if your crockpot does not heat evenly, and has hot spots; you can get localized burning. So once in a while, use a rubber or silicon spatula to scrape the sides and look for any burned apple butter. If it does burn: pour the apple butter out of the crockpot into a bowl. The burned apple butter will cling to the crockpot. Clean the crockpot, discard the burned bits and pour the unburned apple butter back in!
Step 5 - Add the remaining applesauce
It will reduce in volume by about half overnight. As it cooks down (the next morning), add the remaining applesauce (about 2 or 3 quarts) and 2 more cups of sugar. Then let it cook a couple of hours more to mix the flavors.
Step 6 - Wash the jars and lids
Now's a good time to get the jars ready, so you won't be rushed later. The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle, the water bath processing will sanitize them as well as the contents! If you don't have a dishwasher with a sanitize cycle, you can wash the containers in hot, soapy water and rinse, then sanitize the jars by boiling them 10 minutes, and keep the jars in hot water until they are used.
Leave the jars in the dishwasher on "heated dry" until you are ready to use them. Keeping them hot will prevent the jars from breaking when you fill them with the hot apple butter.
Put the lids into a pan of hot, but not quite boiling water (that's what the manufacturer's recommend) for 5 minutes, and use the magnetic "lid lifter wand" to pull them out.
Step 7 - Blend the apple butter (optional)
You want a smooth, creamy texture, right? The easiest way is to use a hand-held drink blender. It does a great job of making it smooth. You can also put it into a regular blender, but if you are going to do that, you might want to blend the apple sauce before you put it in the crock pot (it will be much thicker afterwards and won't move in a regular blender). Another visitor says running it through a food mill with a fine screen or through a sieve works, too.
- Too thick? if the apple butter cooks down too much or is too thick for your liking, just add a little bit of apple juice and blend it in.
- Not thick enough? Just let it cook some more, with the lid off so the steam can escape!
Step 8 - Fill and seal the jars
If the crockpot isn't keeping the apple butter boiling hot, you will need to briefly return the butter to the stove to get it hotter. It varies from crockpot to crockpot. I find that if I set my crockpot on high for the 15 minutes before I fill the jars and stir frequently, it gets it boiling.
Fill the jars to within ¼-inch of the top, wipe any spilled apple butter of the top, seat the lid and tighten the ring around them.
Step 9 – Process the jars
Process means put them in the canner and keep them covered with at least 1 inch of water and boiling. if you are at sea level (up to 1,000 ft) boil pint jars for 5 minutes and quart jars for 10 min. If you are at an altitude of 1,000 feet or more, see the chart below. Even though these times are right from the USDA, I usually tend to err on the side of safety and let mine go for 15 minutes; there's no harm in going longer.
Recommended process time for Apple Butter in a boiling-water canner.
Process Time at Altitudes of
0 - 1,000 ft
1,001 - 6,000 ft
Above 6,000 ft
Half-pints or Pints
Step 10 - Done
Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight) You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok.
From left to right:
- Jar lifting tongs
to pick up hot jars
- Lid lifter
- to remove lids from the pot
of boiling water (sterilizing )
- disposable - you may only
use them once
- holds the lids on the jar until after
the jars cool - then you don't need them
- Canning jar funnel
- to fill the jars
Commonly Asked Apple Butter Canning Questions (FAQs)
Q. I am planning on canning apple butter soon, and want to make apple sauce first. Can i make apple sauce, cool it and then make the apple butter in the slow cooker the next day. As long as I cool it and refrigerate it all will be good right?
A. Yes, absolutely. I often do that. You identified they keys: store it in the fridge until you are ready, then the slow-cooker, and when you are ready to can it, either bring the crockpot up to high to get the apple butter boiling hot or heat it further on the stove, then put in the jars, seal and process
Q. I was wondering if you can freeze apple butter and if so how do i do it? I am making apple butter in crock pot. I visit your website often and it is very helpful!
A. Sure, apple butter freezes well! Just let it cool to room temperature, pour it into Ziploc bags or other suitable freezer containers and pop it in the freezer! That’s all there is to it!
Q. I have been using your site and recipes a lot this year in making a variety of jellies, jams and applesauce. I am trying to find a recipe for apple butter that has anise in it. I remember using it with my grandmother over 30 years ago but the recipe remained in her mind not on paper. Would you by chance have one that included this spice or no where I could get one??? Thanks,
A. Nope, I haven’t tried it, yet! But apparently some folks like the hint of licorice in their apple butter. You could easily add 5 whole star anise to each crockpot as you start to cook it. Or ½ teaspoon ground star anise per batch.