Slow-Cooked Apple Butter… The Perfect Edible Gift

Need an idea for a gift?  This apple butter is simple, yet so rich and delicious, and can be easily gifted in little mason jars.  A natural treat…. made with a variety of apples (you can use whatever you have around- a mix is good), vanilla from real vanilla beans, warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, a touch of fresh lemon juice, and organic sugars.  It’s then slow-cooked for hours- literally many hours (12 of them to be exact, more if needed- that’s the beauty of this recipe- you can let it cook around your schedule, as you’ll see I did below).  The result is a scrumptious, creamy, buttery apple butter that’s great on toast, scones, oatmeal, meat, or even just as-is (if you’re a freak like me, you’ll eat it by the spoonful from the jar).
I’m a big fan of edible gifts.  It’s fun to give gifts, it’s fun to cook things, and it’s extra fun to eat… three reasons why edible gifts are on my yay-list.  With Christmas right around the corner, I racked my brain for all the different edible gifts I could make.  I knew I wanted one gift people could drink and one they could eat.  I also knew I wanted to make things in jars- I love mason jars.  So after ample research and lots of thinking (and stomach rumbling) I settled on my edible gifts for this season: homemade limoncello (recipe to come next!) and apple butter.  Of course from there it was hard to not want to make homemade scones to go with the apple butter and then maybe some cupcakes, and then some lemon bars blah blah blah, but I contained myself and allowed apple butter and limoncello to be it (for now anyway), or else I’d still be in my kitchen making crazy messes and eating “leftovers” I not-so-accidentally made too much of.  So here’s the apple butter recipe… it’s super simple, straight-forward, and mighty delicious.  Despite having butter in the name, this creamy concoction has no such thing; it’s just apples, vanilla (fresh from the bean), lemon, spices, and some sugar :)
So what’s the difference between apple sauce and apple butter you ask?  Basically, apple butter is cooked down for hours and hours until it forms a rich, dark, creamy texture.  It’s not saucy like apple sauce, but rather is buttery, like butter (wow, some real words of wisdom there).
This version is extra creamy and delicious.  The texture, I have to say, is superior to any store-bought version I’ve had.  It’s slow-cooking magic- it makes it so smooth and creamy.
I used my Crock Pot for this.  It allows the apples to slow cook over a long period of time, creating the thick buttery texture and rick flavor.  You could do this overnight if you wanted, or make it during the day, then let it sit overnight, and come back to it the next day… I had to take the latter route this time due to my schedule, but it worked just fine for me :)  Either way, your house will thank you, as will any people who live in it… it will smell amazeballs after this!!
It’s easier than you might think to get from that (up there)
to this (down there), and well well worth the wait.
Check out the step by step below if you’re interested…
Hope you try it out and enjoy as much as I did!  Your gift-receivers will thank you :)


Apple Butter: A Quick Step-By-Step
{detailed instructions below}

This contraption here (an apple peeler/corer) is VERY helpful…
you can still do it without one- you’ll just peel and core the apples yourself,
but with one of these, it seriously takes less than ten minutes to do them all.
They’re easy to find at mos kitchen-gadget stores,
and can often be found very cheap at stores like Ross and Marshall’s :)
Peel and core apples
Check out the awesome string of peel you’ll have
at the end- there has to be some cool craft to do with these things!
Slice apples, add to Crock Pot, and top with sugar and spices
Mix
Cook for a long long time and add an extra touch of deliciousness (specifics to follow)
And now you have homemade apple butter!

Makes enough to fill ten 8 oz jars

INGREDIENTS
6 1/2 lbs of apples (I used 5 lbs Granny Smith and 1 1/2 Honey Crisp)
 1 cup sugar (use what you like- palm, cane, etc)
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
2 vanilla beans (about 6-8 inches in length- if not available, use 1 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
*You’ll want a large Crock Pot/slow-cooker for this
*Things that will make this a lot easier: an apple peeler/corer and an immersion blender
(if you don’t have those, use a regular peeler and blender)
DIRECTIONS
{here’s a more detailed step-by-step}
Start by peeling all of the skin off the apples
Then remove the cores…
You’ll have a bunch of crazy looking apples
(it’s okay if not every single piece of peel is gone- a teensy bit can remain)
Slice and chop apples
(If using an apple contraption/peeler/corer, then they will already be sliced,
so you’ll just chop in half- if not, just roughly chop)
*It’s normal for them to turn a little brown while sitting out
Place in Crock Pot
In a mixing bowl, add sugars, spices, and salt (but not vanilla or lemon)
Stir to mix

Pour sugar/spice mixture over apples

Use hands (or utensils) to evenly mix it all together
(As you can see, my pot was on overload,
so I did the best i could without
spilling anything- it’s not biggie if it’s not
all perfectly mixed- it will blend more as cooks)
Cover and set on low for 10 hours
About half way through, remove lid and stir
(I know, not the prettiest phase, but don’t worry- it’ll get good-lookin’ soon!)
All the apples will melt into a saucy soup instantly upon stirring

At about 7 hours, add the vanilla from one bean
(if you’re cooking overnight, no worries- just do it all at the end)
To get vanilla from bean, cut the bean in half
(just the top side- not all the way through)
and then use the underside of your knife to scrape along the
pod to remove all of the pasty vanilla yumminess

Add to apple mixture and stir in
Then cover again and continue to let cook for rest of time

After 10 hours, your apple sauce will start to look thicker and
richer in color (I made mine during the day, so my ten hours ended
before I went to bed… so I let it sit as-is, covered, until I got up early in the morning.
If you make this during the night, then your ten hours will likely be
done right as you get up- great timing if you ask me!)
Now that it’s done doing it’s thing (round one anyway), add the second
batch of vanilla bean- same process, just scrape from the
bean and add the vanilla to the apple mixture
Now add fresh lemon juice to the mix
Using an immersion, blend the apple mixture until smooth-
even when you think it’s smooth, keep blending-
you want it nice and smooth
(If you don’t have an immersion blender,
transfer the mixture to a regular blender
and blend until smooth in small batches until it’s all done)
Look at that transformation!  Yumm :)
You’ll notice at this point that the texture is getting creamy and buttery already…
Now return heat to low and cook, this time uncovered, for two more hours
(I had to go to work, so I set my timer for two hours and then it stayed on warm until I got home, so it stayed uncovered on warm for about 5 hours- no prob.  That’s what’s nice about this… timing isn’t a huge deal- it’ll just do it’s thing :)
Now start getting your jars ready…
Boil and clean them and so forth
Then scoop the apple butter into the jars until all are evenly filled
Good luck not eating a few scoops before getting it into the fridge…
(I couldn’t resist!  Look at the yumminess just calling for you to devour it!!)

You want to let them cool a little before putting the lids on, just so the steam doesn’t build up in there

Then place in the refrigerator until ready to use/gift
When you’re ready to give them to people, slap a sticker on the jar
(dry the little sticker surface first), tie some ribbon on it if you want, and give give give!


And don’t forget to keep one for you… trust me, you’ll want it :)

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Hi, I'm Natalie! I like to cook, eat, and adventure. I live in a little home with an itty-bitty kitchen, a crazy feline, and a very hungry boyfriend. Lots of cooking and devouring goes down here. Farmer's markets inspire me, as do the seasons and travel. I create simple recipes using wholesome real food. Enjoy!
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