Need I say more?
It’s that time of year that everybody is searching for apple butter recipes or what to do with the 6 pears or 8 apples or when you are just exhausted with applesauce and don’t know what else to make. The thought of peeling one more apple makes you want to cry and call your mommy. I know…. I have been there!
On our Facebook Group Page (have you joined? Our Happy Preserving Facebook Page!) I see many questions regarding fruit butters, sugar amounts, options, and what to do with the leftover apples. Here is my solution!
I should preface to say there is no hard and fast recipe here. This depends on your fruit, choices of sweeteners, what you have available to you! Food preservation should be safe, but it should also be practical. If you have brown sugar, use it! If you like white sugar, use it! Not enough cinnamon? It’s ok! This is about frugal living, filling bellies with healthy foods and enjoying the process.
First, this batch I used half apples and half pears. You can use ANY fruit combo here! If you have peaches, throw them in! No pears, its fine, just do apples! Half a bag of cranberries? Sure! Throw it in! The difference will be adjusting the sugar volume to match the taste you seek.
Now, to be fair, you can get a basic apple butter recipe anywhere. I have found that people get worried about the volume of sugar, and this is understandable! Ball calls for 3 cups of sugar to 6 pounds of apples! WOW! People who are following canning rules (AS they SHOULD be!) Also worry if they have 3 pounds apples or six pounds because it strays from the recipe. This however is one area that it is ok to stray from that.
So, moving forward… This “recipe” takes whatever amount of fruit you have and is cooked for a low time in your crock pot. If you don’t have a crock pot you can use your oven, however watch closely for burning. You can use whatever combination of sugars you like to have. I used brown sugar, turbadino sugar and honey to season this batch. Finally, you can use whichever spices that appeal to you.
So maybe this isn’t really a recipe. It’s a process. (Can you tell I am a therapist? It’s a process….it takes time…)
First gather your fruit. Wash it up, core the fruit, then quarter or chunk it up. You do NOT have to peel your fruit. In fact I think that fruit butter benefits from skins on. It adds a richness to the end result. So chop it all up and fill up your crock pot!
Once your crock pot (or roaster if using the oven) is full. I fill this about one third of the way full with apple juice that I canned from the applesauce I made. (Remember this post Hello Autumn! Hello Apples!). You can also use apple cider or any other fruit juice. You could use water as well, but it may not be quite as rich.
Now, just turn on low and let it good several hours. This will vary depending on your crock pot, fruit etc. I typically will let this go overnight. It smells amazing when you wake up! Then, it will look something like this!
If you have a hand held immersion blender, just use it at this time to puree all of your apples and pears together. If you don’t, you can use a blender, a food processor or even a potato masher. Your apples will be super soft and should mash right up with little effort.
At this point, you can add your sweeteners. This is so variable! We like our apple butter sweet but not jelly sweet! For us, it typically ends up being approximately one cup of sweetener to each crock pot full. Taste your sauce at this point. Is it sour? Add a bit more, pretty sweet? Maybe be conservative. Remember that your apple butter is going to condense and flavor will intensify!
We added 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup turbadino (a natural sugar that has a bit of a molasses flavor) and 1/3 cup honey)
Add in your seasonings! We go heavy with this! I used 3 tbsp. cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg and a dash of cloves. Mix it all in. Then, you need to fill your crockpot once again. I use the applesauce I already made to do this. You could add more fresh fruit and cook it down as well. Either way, you want to refill the crock pot so that you have a full pot again. Note that this can be skipped! You don’t HAVE to do this, I just like to start with a full pot! I had one quart that didn’t seal and a pint that was leftover. That filled the pot!
Now, you want to let this cook down. I put a wooden spoon across the crock pot, then lay the lid over this. It allows the moisture to escape so that your apple-pear-fruit butter can reduce down. I turn it on low and let it go another 6-8 hours. Again this depends on your own crockpot. You will know it is done when its thick, spreadable and delicious!
Like THIS! Notice how much it has reduced? (that looks really quite unattractive doesn’t it! The sides will dry up as it reduces. Well… the blog is real! I’m no fancy photographer!)
To preserve your apple butter, it needs to be brought back up to a high temperature. I replace the lid on the crockpot and turn onto high. My crockpot typically will have the apple butter simmering by the time my canner is hot. You could also heat it in a pan on the stove. Either way make sure your apple butter is HOT when you place into jars.
Next, just ladle your thick butter into the hot prepared jars. You can use pints or half pints. Fill jars to 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Cap and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.
In general, my crockpot will use about 12 – 15 pounds of fruit, and will result in 12 half pints of butter.
Then, enjoy a slather of butter on a piece of warm homemade bread. YUM!
So, to sum it up.
Use whatever fruit combination you have on hand. I like to fill my crockpot, and this often takes 12-15 pounds of fruit. It is best to use at least half apples or fruit high in pectin but not necessary. I have done this with peaches, cranberries, plums as well. The big difference is cooking time with fruits that may have a higher water content.
Add liquid (juice, water, cider) approximately 1/3 of the way of your fruit
Cook several hours (butters need several hours!) then puree
Add more sauce if you want, or season to taste. We use 1 – 1/2 cup sweetener per crock pot (honey, sugar, sucanot, turbadine etc)
Add spices as you wish. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves are good additions. We go heavy on cinnamon, light on nutmeg and cloves
Leave in crockpot several more hours until reduced, thick and spreadable!
Bring to a simmer. Ladle into pints or half pint jars with 1/4 inch headspace. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath!