My family’s farm, Fernwood Springs, in Westampton, New Jersey, has a lovely little apple orchard. The trees go mostly untended now because it’s just my grandma and my uncle working the farm (and my grandma is 87!), but the Red Delicious apples are still…well…delicious, even without much tending. I picked a boatload the other day and decided to make apple butter with them in my shiny new-ish crockpot.
I’m filing this recipe under “Kitchen Projects” because it takes a looooong time to make. Traditionally, apple butter is cooked over an open flame for like, 4 days, but I managed to a) eliminate the open flame (not so legal in Brooklyn) and b) reduce the cooking time to about 12 hours or so. I added a couple of dried chilies to the recipe after being inspired by a friend who put up a billion jars of cayenne-spiced apple sauce this year – the chile/apple combo is a good one. It may seem a little weird to boil apple cores in a bag along with the apple/water/sugar mixture, but the cores contain a ton of pectin which will give your finished butter a nice jam-y consistency.
(makes about 2 pints)
12 cups apples, chopped (I used Red Delicious, but other varieties of apples will work). Reserve 5-6 apple cores – see below
2 cups raw sugar
2 cups water
5-6 apple cores
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
3-4 whole cardamom pods
2-3 small dried chilies
4-5 pods star anise
1/2 vanilla bean, split
Special Equipment: Crock-pot, cheesecloth, kitchen twine, hand blender (optional)
- Combine the chopped apples, sugar, 2 cups of water, and the juice of 1 lemon in a large crock pot. (Reserve the squeezed lemon.)
- Wrap the juiced lemon, the apple cores, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom pods, chilies, star anise, and vanilla bean in cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine. Add to the apple/sugar mixture.
- Cook the mixture on high in the crockpot for 2 hours. If the water starts evaporating too quickly, add more, 1/4 cup at a time.
- Reduce heat to low and cook for 10-12 hours. The mixture should turn a dark caramel brown and the apples should start to fall apart.
- After 10-12 hours in the crockpot, check the mixture for consistency. This will depend on what variety of apple you use, how hot your crockpot gets, and whether you added additional water to the mixture. The mixture should start looking jam-y, with little to no apple chunks in the mix.
- If the mixture is too chunky for your liking, remove the cheesecloth bag and blend the mixture using a hand blender until the apple chunks have been incorporated. If the mixture isn’t thick enough for your liking, remove the mixture from the crockpot and add to a medium, heavy-bottomed pot. Cook over medium heat until thickened. (Keep an eye on the mixture at this point – it will splatter everywhere if left unattended. Trust me.) I both blended with a hand blender and continued to cook the mixture on top of the stove to get the consistency I wanted.
- Once the apple butter is as thick as you’d like it, ladle into jars or another clean, glass container. Cool completely, then refrigerate. You can also can (that sounds kind of weird) the apple butter at this point, but I didn’t want to bother – the mixture will keep in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks without canning.