Apple Butter

Favorite FallCanningApplePreserves

Homemade apple butter recipe, complete with step-by step instructions. Apple butter spiced with cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and lemon. Great on toast!

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

It’s hard to find any apple butter, let alone good apple butter in the grocery store these days. Making apple butter is a great way to preserve the fruits of an apple harvest.

In contrast to what the name implies, there is no “butter” in apple butter. The name comes from its smooth and buttery texture.

Apple butter is delicious on buttered toast. Although apple butter takes time to make (the sauce is slow cooked for at least an hour), the upfront part is easy. You do not have to peel or core the apples.

Apple Butter

The pectin for firming up the resulting jam resides mostly in the cores and there is a lot of flavor in the apple peels. After the first cooking, these parts get discarded as the pulp is run through a food mill.

This recipe produces a classic apple butter, both sweet and tart, the addition of cider vinegar just intensifying the flavor and giving it its tangy edge. It’s seasoned with cinnamon, cloves, allspice and lemon.

Apple Butter Recipe

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  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours
  • Yield: Makes a little more than 3 pint jars.

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs of good cooking apples (we use Granny Smith or Gravenstein)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • Sugar (about 4 cups, see cooking instructions)
  • Salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Special equipment:

Method

Preparing the Fruit

1 Cut the apples into quarters, without peeling or coring them. (Much of the pectin is in the cores and flavor in the peels). Cut out damaged parts.

First Stage of Cooking

2 Cook the apples: Put the quartered apples into large pot, add the vinegar and water, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cook until apples are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

Purée apples and add the sugar and spices

3 Purée the apples through a food mill or chinois: Ladle apple mixture (cooked apples and liquid) into a chinois sieve (or food mill) and using a pestle force pulp from the chinois into a large bowl below.

4 Add sugar, spices, lemon rind, and juice: Measure resulting puree. Add 1/2 cup of sugar for each cup of apple pulp. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add a dash of salt, and the cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, lemon rind and juice. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Second Stage of Cooking

5 Cook the apple mixture, stirring often: Cook the apple sugar mixture uncovered in a large, wide, thick-bottomed pot on medium low heat, stirring often to prevent burning. Scrape the bottom of the pot while you stir to make sure a crust is not forming at the bottom.

Cook until thick and smooth (about 1 to 2 hours). A small bit spooned onto a chilled (in the freezer) plate will be thick, not runny.

You can also cook the purée on low heat, stirring only occasionally, but this will take much longer as stirring encourages evaporation. (Note the wider the pan the better, as there is more surface for evaporation.)

As an alternative to stovetop cooking you can cook the purée uncovered in a microwave, on medium heat setting to simmer, for around 30 minutes. If you do this, monitor the cooking every 5 or 10 minutes. Microwaves vary in their power.

Canning

6 Sterilize canning jars: There are several ways to sterilize your jars for canning.

  • You can run them through a short cycle on your dishwasher.
  • You can place them in a large pot (12 quart) of water on top of a steaming rack (so they don't touch the bottom of the pan), and bring the water to a boil for 10 minutes.
  • Or you can rinse out the jars, dry them, and place them, without lids, in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes.

7 Pour the apple butter into hot, sterilized jars and seal. If you plan to store the apple butter un-refrigerated, make sure to follow proper canning procedures.

Before applying the lids, sterilize the lids by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying the lids.

I use a hot water bath for 10 minutes to ensure a good seal.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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267 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Hannah

    I am making the apple butter now. The taste is lovely. Although the butter is slowly condensing, it’s been about 2.5 hours. Still not really thick. Or is it? I would love to see a picture of what the butter should look like when it is “done”. I know you have a description of the finished jam on a chilled plate. Can you post a picture so we can see the general thickness? I have never made a jam / butter before, not a cooked one, so I don’t know how to gage a finished product.

  • Brian Hawkins

    When you say to use the juice and grated rind of a lemon, do you just grated an entire lemon? That’s what I did and the lemon taste is a little overpowering. Is it safe to just add a little lemon juice next time?

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Emily

    Delicious recipe! However, running the jars on a short dishwasher cycle definitely does NOT sterilize them—it only sanitizes them. (HUGE difference!) If your readers can the apple butter in a water bath for 10 minutes then it’s irrelevant. However, if they don’t, botulism is no joke! The best way to sterilize jars is in boiling water for 15 minutes.

  • Angie

    Can you use an instant pot to shorten the cooking time?

  • Dian Franks

    I am so in love with this recipe. To all of you who dont have a sieve to mash the mixture through, I dont either and here’s what I did. I used my peeler that sliced and cored the apples. Tossed the peelings, but put the cores in to cook with the apples to derive the pectin. Before I pureed it with my immersion blender I pulled out the soft cooked cores. So easy! You get the pectin and dont have to mash that mess through a wire mesh! I also used about half the vinegar and water, used 2 cups brown sugar 2 cups white sugar to 4 lbs of Jona-gold apples.

    xxxxxyyyyy

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