November 17, 2015 DIY Food & Drink

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Kate Robertson is a features writer for Pretty Southern. Follow Kate on Twitter

applesOne of my favorite fall activities is apple picking. There’s something about plucking big, juicy apples from towering branches that brings out a childish joy in me. I always come back with a peck or more of fresh, sweet fruit that I know I’ll use for something delicious at home.

Earlier this fall, I went apple picking at an orchard in North Georgia. I used half of my bounty for crock-pot applesauce, which is one of my favorite apple recipes. But as of a couple weeks ago, I still had about ¾ of a peck left. I wanted to try something new with those. So I channeled my great-grandmother and made apple butter, and taught myself how to can. All in one day (well, technically two days, since the apple butter sat in the crock-pot overnight).

I’d been wanting to try canning for a while. Our family friends make homemade jam in the summer with fresh-picked fruit, and they always share with us. But I’d never bitten the bullet and tried it myself. All the supplies are expensive, especially for someone on a budget. Fortunately, I grabbed some mason jars on sale at Michael’s and JoAnn’s and stocked up. There’s no such thing as “too many mason jars.” There’s always a use for one.

Apple picking at R & A Orchards, Ellijay, Ga.

I had absolutely zero idea what I was doing: how do I prepare the cans? Do I have to heat them? How do I even make apple butter? Is there butter in apple butter? (There is, in fact, no real butter in apple butter.) So, to Pinterest and Google I went. My great-grandmother wouldn’t have had that luxury, but I did, so I used it. Canning in a boiling water bath didn’t sound too difficult, albeit time-consuming, and it beat using a pressure-cooker type apparatus. I settled on that method, and then searched for a reasonable recipe.

Fortunately, almost anything can be made in a crock-pot, including apple butter. I found a good starting point and added my favorite spices and flavors to put my own spin on the recipe.

Here’s the recipe I ended up making:

Spiced Apple Butter

  • 12 apples, ranging from fist-sized to softball-sized
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice

Version 2Instructions:

  1. Spray your crock-pot with cooking spray to prevent sticking.
  2. Peel and chop apples, and put them in the sprayed crock-pot.
  3. Add spices, and pour water over the apples.
  4. Stir well, so that the water and spices cover the apple chunks.
  5. Set your crock-pot on low, cover and let it go for at least 8 hours. Overnight is best.
  6. After 8 hours (or the next morning), crank it up to high, prop the lid open with a spoon, and let it go for another 3-4 hours. Don’t stir it. Just let it cook down.
  7. Once the apples are cooked down and take on a medium brown color, turn off the crock pot. Stir until the butter reaches your desired consistency or chunkiness.
  8. Can according to your preferred method.

I like my apple butter smooth, so I whisked it until it was smooth. An immersion blender would do the trick, too. If you prefer chunkier apple butter, give it a good, careful stir, and leave the butter at your desired chunkiness. The finished product is delicious on a warm biscuit, or swirled in a bowl of oatmeal.

14-ish hours later, I ended up with 10 cans of apple butter. Fortunately the holidays are around the corner, and little cans of homemade apple butter will make a wonderful gift.

My great-grandmother would be proud, too. For my first-ever batch of apple butter, it turned out pretty delicious. That’s pretty Southern, if you ask me.

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