A 'slow food' approach to homemade apple butter. In this recipe, the apple butter is naturally sweetened with apple cider, is dotted with a little butter for richness, and spends a long (loooong!) time in the oven or in a slow cooker.
My two burning questions about apple butter.
First, why doesn’t apple butter include -- um, well, you know -- butter? My recipe does, just a touch, which gives this lovely butterscotch-colored apple sauce, an unctuous mouth feel. After several hours in the oven at low temperature, it’s so smooth, so creamy, it’s on the verge of something akin to custard, albeit it egg-free, cream-free and sugar-free.
Second, why do apple butter recipes include, without fail, cups and cups and cups of sugar, which turns already-sweet apples into, well, just a sugar-sweet apple mess?
So get out the butter and put away the sugar. We’re making apple butter, real old-fashioned apple butter, apple butter so delicious you’ll sit up straight to ask, Why is it that there’s no butter in apple butter? And why does apple butter need sugar?
Spread the word. This is apple butter the way it’s meant to be.
NATURALLY SWEETENED APPLE BUTTER
Time to table: 7 - 10 hours
Makes 3-1/2 cups
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 pounds Jonathan apples (or another baking apple), peeled and cored, cut into quarters
- 3 cups apple cider
- Zest and juice of a small lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
In a large oven-proof pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter on medium. Add the apples as they’re prepped, stirring occasionally to coat with fat. Add cider, cover and let gently simmer for 30 minutes or until soft but still intact. Process until smooth with an immersion blender or a food processor. Stir in remaining ingredients.
Set oven to 250F and place the pot, uncovered, inside. Stirring every 30 minutes, let cook for 5 - 6 hours for a butterscotch-smooth apple custard and another 2 - 3 hours for a cinnamon-dark apple butter.
Refrigerate and use within two weeks.
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