Subtly spiced, caramel colored, silky apple butter is applesauce that went to finishing school. Both refined and homey, there are so many preferences on how apple butter should be made, and how it should taste. To me, apples require no added sugars when you concentrate their natural sweetness. And why cover that great flavor up with a heavy handed use of fall spices? After all, we are not making apple pie filling.
I like to use a three-to-one mix of sweet and tart apples for balance. And to keep things simple, as I like to do, I favor the immersion blender over a food mill. It increases the prep ever so slightly, but you avoid wrangling a food mill (if you even have one) and you’ll end up with a smoother texture. The mostly oven method gives the apple butter a darker, more even color, while eliminating the risk of scorching on the stovetop if you happen to step away. The total time may seem lengthy, but it’s largely hands-off, and your home will smell amazing regardless of the season.
Editor’s Note: Looking for ideas of how to put this apple butter to good use? We have lots. Dollop it on top of yogurt (bonus points for pecan yogurt). Smear it on top of peanut-buttered toast. Blend it with vanilla ice cream for an over-the-top milkshake. Even serve it alongside something savory like broiled sausages or skillet pork chops. Or, you know, just go at it with a spoon. —Allison Bruns Buford
about 3 cups
sweet apples (such as Honeycrisp, Fuji, or Gala)
Peel, quarter, and core the apples. (If you happen to have an apple corer handy, it would make quick work of this.) You can then cut the quarters into smaller 1-inch chunks if you want, though I don’t feel this is necessary.
Put the apple chunks, apple cider, and spices into a heavy-bottom, oven-safe pot with a lid. Simmer, covered, over medium heat for 30 minutes. Stir about halfway through to make sure there is enough liquid to prevent scorching, and that all the apples are steaming.
Take off the heat, stir, and let stand for about 10 minutes to let the apples soften and let the mixture cool down a touch before blending.
Using an immersion blender, puree the apples to a very smooth consistency.
Bake uncovered in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, stir the apple butter with a flexible spatula, making sure to scrape and incorporate the darker edges into the apple puree. Continue baking for another 1 hour. (If you want your apple butter a little thicker, you can leave it for an additional 30 minutes—just keep in mind that it will firm up a bit once it cools.)