Roasted Apple Butter

September 18, 2013
2 Ratings
  • Makes 2 cups
Author Notes

Apple butter is, essentially, a concentrated, spreadable version of applesauce. There are a variety of ways to go from whole fruit to butter (i.e., stovetop, crockpot, etc.), and I think many people have an opinion on which way is best. My method is a bit unconventional in that it yields a batch of apple butter in a matter of hours, rather than taking all day to create. The secret: roasting. And uncored apples. The cores (as well as the peels) contain a good deal of pectin, which helps firm up the sauce and give it a more butter-like consistency. And roasting allows for complex caramelized flavors to develop, and also removes a bit more water. Once the cooked fruit has been run through a food mill, I often find it requires very little (and sometimes no) stovetop time to be cooked down into butter. (If you don’t have a food mill, you can run the mixture through a sieve, but it will be a tedious process due to the thickness of the mixture. To make this easier, I would suggest coring the apples before you roast them, and perhaps covering the pan while it's in the oven to retain some of the moisture. You should wind up with something that has a more sauce-like consistency, and will therefore run through the sieve with less difficulty.)

When deciding on apples, many people prefer a mix of sweet (Fuji, McIntosh, Jonagold) and tart (Braeburn, Granny Smith, Liberty). I love tart apples, so I usually wind up using mostly tart with maybe one or two sweet ones thrown in, and then using cider in place of water to up the sweetness. If you use a mix of sweet and tart, swap out some of the cider for water. Overall, the sugar and spices in the recipe should be treated as guidelines rather than gospel. Feel free to add more or less to suit your own tastes. —Carey Nershi

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup cider, divided into 1/4- and 3/4-cup amounts
  • 7 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 3 pounds apples
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch cloves
  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Cut apples into large chunks (quarters for small apples, eighths for larger). Arrange on a large metal roasting pan, add the 1/4 cup of cider and lemon juice, then sprinkle with brown sugar and salt and dot with butter.
  2. Roast for 30–35 minutes, or until apples are very soft and fall apart at the touch of a fork. Remove from oven and let rest for one minute, then pour the remaining 3/4 cup of cider over the pan. (This will help deglaze the pan and pick up the maximum amount of yummy caramelized flavor. Be careful when you pour, though, as it will sputter and steam a bit.)
  3. Transfer apples and liquid to a large flat-bottomed bowl or pot. Mash with a spoon, fork, or potato masher until the pieces have been broken up into sauce.
  4. Run the mixture through a food mill to remove the cores, seeds, and peels (see note above if you do not have a food mill). Stir in the spices, then give it a taste. Add more sweetener and/or spices until you have the flavor where you want it.
  5. At this point, assess the consistency of your butter. If you’d like it to be a bit smoother, you can blend it up with a food processor or an immersion blender. (I like mine with a little bit of texture, so I leave it as is.) If it isn’t quite as thick as you’d like it to be, transfer it a heavy bottom saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until you’ve achieved the right consistency. (Beware of cooking it down too much though, as you can wind up with a very heavy, intense butter. I like mine at the point where it just holds its form when stirred or spread. When it cooks down more than this, I find it develops an overwhelming pectin texture, which isn’t my favorite.)
  6. Once cooled, store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze it to keep it for longer.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Licole Paroly
    Licole Paroly
  • mrslarkin
  • Noghlemey
  • K. Michele Lee
    K. Michele Lee
  • Foxes
Lover of simple food and cocktails served with a single giant ice cube. Raised in the NY Schoharie Valley; currently residing in Burlington, VT. Blogger at reclaimingprovincial.com.

34 Reviews

Licole P. October 3, 2022
So tasty and so easy! I don't have a food mill and that was no problem at all. I just roasted the quartered, cored apples with their peels and occasionally squished it all with a spatula. By the end, they were soft enough to mix easily into a smooth butter. I wound up not taking the peels out because they're weirdly delicious and I am lazy :P
mrslarkin October 18, 2016
This is a great recipe. Thank you, Carey!
I reduced the sugar a bit, and used Sauvignon Blanc instead of cider. Totally delicious.
Noghlemey October 19, 2015
Awww, I am in love with this recipe. I made mine mixing apples & peaches. Thank you so much for sharing this. I will post some pictures of it today on my Instagram. :)
Melissa October 11, 2015
Planning to try this next week and was wondering if a splash of bourbon would work in this recipe? I had a cocktail recently that had apple, bourbon and ginger - it was phenomenal!
emarie September 5, 2015
I was given a bag of small green apples and had no idea what to do with them until I remembered I saved this recipe. The apple butter has the perfect consistency and sweetness. Very easy and delicious!
Nicole W. October 18, 2014
Thank you so much for this recipe! I just made it, and it's perfect. I tweaked the amounts a bit: all McIntosh (on hand), all cider, no brown sugar, 1.5T butter. And, it required no additional stovetop time. What more could I ask? Thank you!
K. M. October 2, 2014
can i substitute store bought regular apple juice in place of the cider?
AntoniaJames October 2, 2014
Yes, it should work fine. ;o)
Foxes November 23, 2013
This looks great! Could I use a ricer instead of a food mill? I have a ricer, not a food mill, and am not totally certain of the difference between them.
Foxes November 23, 2013
Oops...disregard my comment. I just did some research and discovered that what I have is, in fact, a food mill. So, I will be making this tomorrow!
Leyanne T. September 29, 2013
Am I right in thinking that in the US 'cider' is just apple juice? Or am i misinterpreting something somewhere? Here in the UK cider is an alcoholic drink made from fermented apples.
GraceT September 29, 2013
No. Here in the U.S. we have both cider, which is non-alcoholic and has a sharp crisp taste and is sold in grocery stores and apple juice which is softer and sweeter and more preferred. The "hard" (alchol containing) cider can be found in some liquor stores and even in some grocery stores that sell specialty ales.
Leyanne T. September 30, 2013
Ah, thanks. So when a recipe such as this one calls simply for 'cider' it means apple juice, correct? I'm assuming the 2 types of apple juice you have are what we would class as either cloudy or clear apple juice. Judging from your description, what you call cider in the states is clear apple juice in the UK.
Carey N. September 30, 2013
Our apple cider here in the US is actually probably closer to the cloudy apple juice you have in the UK. The difference between cider and juice here in the states is that cider has not been filtered.
Leyanne T. September 30, 2013
Great. Now I just have to find an affordable food mill and i'm good to go!
GraceT September 30, 2013
More than likely. It's been more than 40 yrs since I was in England and then I was a teenage tourist. Like I said, ours is classified by taste. Cider beibg sharp. Most Americans, for some reason, seem to equate cloudy as having gone bad for some reason.
KimmyV September 29, 2013
Can anyone recommend a good food mill? I would love to buy one.
AntoniaJames September 23, 2013
My apple-pear-ginger-vanilla butter using this method turned out very well. Once milled, the spread was much looser than I wanted -- more like applesauce than apple butter -- so I simmered it in a heavy pot for a while. I took the lid off and let it sit for a few hours to cool down, to see how much the natural pectin would kick in. It ended up being much stiffer when cool, so next time, I'll probably turn the heat off and let it sit sooner. Letting it sit allowed it to oxidize, producing a rich brown hue, which I like quite a bit.

I decided that the vanilla and ginger flavors, which ended up being quite subtle, once the concentrated fruit flavors kicked in, were fine just as is, so I added only a light pinch of freshly ground nutmeg and no other spices. It's so delicious!

I made a double batch (6 pounds of fruit, all told), and canned it all . . . interestingly, it yielded 1 8 ounce jar and 3 4 ounce jars, due I suspect to my having reduced it more than necessary. It's a lot more like jam than "butter," but it's still outrageously good, and was so easy to make.

I simply could not throw away just yet the "spent" peels and small bits clinging to them in the mill, so I scraped them out into a medium saucepan and poured a quart of filtered water over them. I brought it to a boil and let it sit for an hour, then strained it. I'll reduce that down to about a pint, to use in hot (bourbon!) toddies, come winter. Thanks again for a great recipe and technique. ;o)
Carey N. September 23, 2013
I can imagine how absolutely delicious it is, even though it reduced a bit more than intended! I can't wait to experiment with these flavors. And your idea for the spent peels is genius! Especially in hot toddies...oh man oh man. :D
Sharon September 23, 2013
If you don't have a mill, I wonder if you could core the apple but leave the core in the apple when you roast it. Once its roasted you could just remove the core. Do you think that would work?
Carey N. September 23, 2013
Hmmmm, I'm not really sure. I've never tried roasting the apple whole, but instead have always cut them into bits. When they've been roasted for this long, I find they're quite soft and tend to mush together very easily. If you do give it a try though, let me know how it works out. :)
deb O. September 22, 2013
I am wondering where those cool jars came from - I have some old ones from my mom, but they are quart size! I adore those little guys!!
Carey N. September 22, 2013
I found mine at our natural foods store (they always manage to stock a great selection of jars), but it looks like you can get them through Crate & Barrel too: http://www.crateandbarrel.com/le-parfait-jars/f51126
student E. September 21, 2013
brilliant! just made a batch with apples from my parents orchard (grimes golden) and wild apple cider. it was a huge success -- the family was licking the pot as i scooped it into jars.
Carey N. September 22, 2013
Yay! So glad you and your family enjoyed it. :)
deb O. September 21, 2013
Of course you can can it! I referred to my old old Farm Journal Freezing and Canning Cookbook, which my mother used as her canning reference. Boiling water bath for 5 minutes in pint jars. I realize that there are new standards for preserving food, so perhaps there are different guidelines involved, but I think with sterilized jars and utensils it would be perfectly safe.
Carey N. September 22, 2013
Thanks for confirming too, Deb! It's nice to have reassurance from others who have experience with canning. :)
AntoniaJames September 20, 2013
Your tip to mash with a potato masher before running through the mill is an excellent one! When I've made roasted applesauce using the same method, I've found the peels -- especially the hard ones on tart apples -- to be somewhat stubborn, resulting in a bit of fight between me and the food mill (even though I love it dearly. ;o) . . . .) I'll be processing some of this for canning, too, LTC, but probably won't leave out the butter. With all the acid and sugar here, I have no doubt that it will be just fine. Many jam recipes call for adding butter at the end to reduce the foam.) So looking forward to making this. Fall is here!! ;o)
Lizthechef September 20, 2013
Thanks, AJ, good tips...Yummy-sounding recipe.
AntoniaJames September 20, 2013
Thanks, LTC. Seriously thinking about taking this in yet another direction: pear + Gewurztraminer + vanilla, with a bit of paper thin lemon peel, inspired by an elegant agrodolce, of which I put up 7 pints last weekend. (The recipe is from the excellent "Preservation Kitchen," by Michelin-starred chef Paul Virant.)
Carey N. September 20, 2013
Yes! The mashing is so key, especially because I love those tough little tart apples. :) And thank you so much for providing some advice on the canning front. (It's a technique I wish I knew more about.) Good to know that the butter shouldn't be problematic!
Lizthechef September 20, 2013
Is this recipe safe to can using safe canning procedures??
Carey N. September 20, 2013
I haven't tried it myself, but I've read about others who have canned their variations. If you do give it a go, I'd recommend leaving out the butter.
Lizthechef September 20, 2013
Thanks for your input - I will research it a bit more.