Cast Iron

Copper Pot AppleĀ Butter

September 16, 2010
2 Ratings
  • Serves 6 to 7 pints jars
Author Notes

No it doesn't take a copper pot to make this delicious spread but my brother-in-law's, who I have known since I was two, family always had a Fall apple butter party at which they would make a huge copper lined cast iron pot, like a 10 gallon size thing, full of apple butter. It was set on a cast iron trivet that sat over a slow, smoldering set of wood coals. They had this special paddle that was about 8 feet long and made of oak. It was sort of a shoe horn looking thing and everyone would take turns all day long stirring. If it wasn't stirred, especially toward the end, it was apt to scorch and after all this work no one wanted it scorched. At the end of the day out came the fried chicken and sides along with a huge heap of deep fried biscuits. Well deep fried biscuits and apple butter are just made for each other. What apple butter was left was jarred, canned and then everyone took some home. In my recipe I have adapted it from a bunch of recipes and then I have applied years of apple butter party know how. I don't like it overly sweet, I want to taste the apples, and I like to make it with real spices not oils and finally I don't want to spend all day at the stove stirring so I short cut it with a immersion blender. Use technology when you can I always say. Have fun with it and you can divide the recipe in half but if you start making pies you will go through it quick. The above picture is a york imperial apple from my orchard. I am hoping next year is the year that we really start getting to harvest a lot of apples from our antique variety trees. —thirschfeld

What You'll Need
  • 20 pounds tart apples, peeled and slice thin, I use one of those fancy old fashion peeler/slicers that attaches to the counter. It makes quick work of it.
  • 1 gallon really good all natural apple cider
  • 1 pound brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed, ground fine (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons star anise, ground (optional)
  1. Of the last three ingredients you need to choose one. If you decide on two than cut the amounts of spice in half. I wouldn't use all three because I think it would be a mish mash of to many flavors but that is just my taste, go with yours. An enameled cast iron pot is important to this process. ( For twenty pounds I use two pots and then once they have reduced I combine them into one. Remember the more surface space a liquid has the quicker a liquid will reduce.) The bottom is heavy enough and the heat is distributed evenly so it doesn't scorch so easily. You do NOT want this to scorch.
  2. Place the apples, cider and sugar in a large enameled pot and bring it to a boil. With a large wooden spoon carefully turn the ingredients as they begin to cook so that everything is cooking at the same time. Reduce the heat to medium.
  3. As they begin to soften start to break them up with the spoon. A potato masher works good too. Once they are even softer get out the immersion blender and puree. Reduce the heat to simmer. At this point it is applesauce.
  4. Now you need to simmer and occasionally stir, as it gets thicker it is more apt to burn so you need to stir more as time goes on, until the applesauce is thick, brown and reduced this can take from 3 to 5 hours. Add the spices and the optional spice and simmer for thirty minutes more.
  5. You can can this in a hot hot sterilized jar and a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Bevi
  • Midnite Baker
    Midnite Baker
  • monkeymom
  • drbabs
  • luvcookbooks

31 Reviews

Bevi October 5, 2011
Hi Tom,

I just found your amazing recipe. We have an old tree that produced fruit for the first time in 3 years. I now have bags of apples that look very similar to the one in your photo. Do you think I can safely cut this recipe in half?
thirschfeld October 5, 2011
Midnite B. October 10, 2010
Hi, found your recipe from a HBin5 member. Plan on using it this week. I would never have though to add fennel seed or star anise to apple butter. I like the use of wine cider instead of water. Read some comments and will find your pie for later use. Thanks for the recipes.
monkeymom October 7, 2010
I made my first batch of apple butter! I scaled down and tried Keller's recipe from Ad Hoc to make it in a crock pot. It turned out very dark and delicious. I wanted to make your pie but I had some friends come over and I gave all my butter away already! Time for a second batch, which I will try with fennel seed...and then make pie. Thank you very much for the inspiration. It was great fun!
drbabs September 17, 2010
Oh, wow, I think I'm going to have to make this--I've never even made applesauce before but this sounds amazing and fun and then I would get to make your pie. Thank you so much for posting the recipe as well as the great story. I always learn so much from all of you.
drbabs September 17, 2010
P.S. I'm supposed to be fasting so I shouldn't even be looking at this.
luvcookbooks September 17, 2010
what about adding some sort of alcohol as a flavoring? Calvados?
luvcookbooks September 17, 2010
agree that it is not right to post this recipe without the deep fried biscuit recipe
lapadia September 17, 2010
Deep fried biscuits?...YIKES - (in a good way), never had; OMGoodness, this is something that sounds like something I NEED to try!
Lizthechef September 17, 2010
Forgot the important "Thumbs Up" !!
lapadia September 17, 2010
Love the recipe thirschfeld; I have not used the optionals - star anise or ground fennel seed...what a twist, however, a couple years I added some orange zest, just enough for a "hint" of was well received. I am going to use a little garam marsala the next time, will have to try the ground fennel!
thirschfeld September 17, 2010
I made plum butter today and was thinking garam masala but in the end I went with star anise and Lizthechefs idea of crystalized ginger and will, I let it sit overnight, probably add vanilla tomorrow.
Sagegreen September 17, 2010
Wow! That is the most beautiful apple I have seen. And a York Imperial sounds incredible. I had thought that we had some pretty interesting heirlooms out our way, but not like that!
mrslarkin September 17, 2010
Isn't it beautiful? I have never had an heirloom variety - how sad. We'll be doing our annual apple picking next weekend at Fishkill Farms. Here's the link if anyone's interested:
Sagegreen September 17, 2010
At Greenwood Apples in Northfield MA, I actually just found that they do have the imperial. Here is their list: McIntosh, Cox Orange Pippin, Jonathan, Jonagold, Macoun, Ribston Pippin, Cortland, Empire, Rhode Island Greening, Spitzenburg, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Baldwin, Roxbury Russet, King David, Northern Spy, Golden Russet, Newtown Pippin, Rome Beauty, York Imperial, Arkansas Black, Winesap, Calville Blanc
thirschfeld September 17, 2010
Sagegreen that looks like a great list of apples. In my orchard I have Calville Blancs which is a French apple, Cox's Orange Pippin, Newton Pippin, York Imperial, Duchess of Oldenberg, and Roxberry Russet and then I am getting ready to add Gold Rush, which although is not an antique variety it was developed at Purdue University which along with Cornell and 3 other universities has developed some great new varieties. I am just happy to get a few apples at this point. Growing the antique varieties has been a real challenge, especially for a novice, and that is probably why you don't see many of them grown at orchards. My pears on the other hand are doing great and they are absolutely delicious too. Colette, Flemish Beauty, Seckel, and Moonglow are really tasty. Also next week the peaches are going in.
SallyCan September 16, 2010
Thanks. I never would have thought of using fennel in apple butter!
thirschfeld September 17, 2010
SallyCan I probably wouldn't have either but I have this tote full of old church fundraiser cookbooks and some of them from the 60's and 70's are from Pennsylvania Dutch Country. They talk about fennel seed in apple butter. So I gave it a whirl and guess what, I really like it with the clove and nutmeg.
mrslarkin September 16, 2010
just wanna say that is the most beautiful fugly apple i've ever seen in my LIFE! hold on, now i'm gonna go back and read the recipe.
thirschfeld September 16, 2010
after 5 years of no apples, we have are apple goggles on, and damn if they don't look fine.
thirschfeld September 16, 2010
should say "our"
mrslarkin September 16, 2010
oh, man, now i'm in the mood for deep fried biscuits and your apple butter. Um, we'll need that biscuit recipe, too, thirschfeld, pretty please with sugar on top.
thirschfeld September 17, 2010
have you ever had a york imperial? We had some Duchess of Oldenbergs last year and I have never tasted anything like it, it was edible champagne of the finest kind. I about fell over in the orchard with joy at how good it was
AntoniaJames September 17, 2010
Edible champagne? Now that's my kind of apple! On lapadia's recommendation, I picked up a (WA state . . . unusual for me, as I typically only buy local) "Honey Crisp" and it was outstanding! Probably the best Big Agri-Apple I've ever eaten. Great to munch on, and fabulous in a pie I made last night. Will definitely have to hunt down the Duchess of Oldenberg and York Imperial varieties, hoping that they grow out here. Thanks for all the info, as usual, Mr Hirschfeld. ;o) P.S. Love the image of falling over in joy, in an orchard!! I can totally relate.
TheWimpyVegetarian September 16, 2010
Nice to know that anytime I need to put some pressure on someone for something I just need to round up aargersi and LTC (The Enforcer)!! Thanks for posting this - just in time to greet apple season. Saved!
monkeymom September 16, 2010
thank you thirschfeld. And thanks to aargersi for the thumb twisting! After seeing your pie recipe I did google and saw some people use a crockpot...might give that a go unless you (or others) think otherwise.
AntoniaJames September 16, 2010
I tried using a slow cooker (once) but found that you still have to stir frequently, especially to get the stuff down from the sides, which otherwise turns into a hard, unappealing, glued-on and overcooked substance. It's definitely not a fix-and-forget activity. ;o)
AntoniaJames September 16, 2010
Thanks for posting this great recipe!! I have not one, but two, of those old-fashioned peeling devices, which also core. They're the best. Am waiting for the necessary window of time to make a batch or two of apple butter and also of applesauce. Am considering trying the overnight large roasting pan in the oven at low heat method I saw somewhere. ;o)
Lizthechef September 16, 2010
Sounds delicious! Glad your thumbs survived our vicious threats;)
aargersi September 16, 2010
Yum and thanks! I have an apple-buttering date with a friend soon and we will do this ...
you saved your thumbs :-)
thirschfeld September 16, 2010
don't drink hard cider all day and it really is important to take your time reducing it and making sure it is thick enough. Have fun.