Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

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Instead of standing for hours at the stovetop, utilize your slow cooker to do the all the work of making homemade apple butter.

Active Time:
25 mins
Slow Cook Time:
10 hrs
Total Time:
10 hrs 25 mins
Yield:
5 cups

Making apple butter is a hallmark of Appalachian cooking. With a variety of apples in the mountainous region, farmers and other locals have traditionally looked for different ways to preserve the abundance nature provided. Home cooks dried and fried them, pressed them into cider, and stored them in cellars. For a real treat, they canned jars of apple butter, a sweet, smooth spread that's similar to applesauce but cooked much longer for a thick, jam-like consistency.

apple butter on biscuits
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

What's in Slow-Cooker Apple Butter?

Apple butter is easier than pie! Start with 5 pounds of mixed apples. Choose your favorites, because any variety will do, such as Brandywine, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Gala, even Granny Smith. You'll also need 3 cups of granulated sugar (note: you're splitting this up and adding it in two batches,) plus, all the cozy fall spices—ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

apple butter ingredients on a marble table
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

How Do You Make Apple Butter?

Apple butter is just about the easiest recipe you can make. While you can make apple butter on the stovetop, your slow-cooker makes this recipe super easy.

Step 1. Prep the apples

Start by washing, peeling, and coring your apples. Then, cut them all into about 1-inch cubes. No need to get out a ruler; just try to keep them all about the same size to encourage even cooking.

apples for apple butter on a cutting board
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Step 2. Add apples to slow cooker with sugar

Pile those sweet cubes into a 6-quart slow cooker. Give it a shake, or a stir so the apple pieces settle and allow you to get every piece in there.

Remember we talked about splitting up the sugar? Now's the time to add half of it—1 ½ cups—over the apples. Give everything a good stir to combine. Cover, and cook on HIGH for 6 hours.

apples in a slow cooker crock
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Step 3. Add the spices

After 6 hours, uncover the crockpot, and add the remaining 1 ½ cups sugar and all of the spices. Get ready, because it's going to smell like absolute heaven.

apple butter with spices
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Step 4. Stir and cook some more

Stir everything together really well, then recover the slow cooker, and cook on LOW for another 4 hours, or until the apples are extremely soft.

apple butter in a crock
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Step 5. Behold, your apple butter

After four hours have passed, uncover the slow cooker to reveal the apple butter bliss. The apples will have broken down even more in this time, and will have darkened to a deep amber color thanks to the spices.

nearly finished apple butter
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Step 6. Blend the apple butter

Transfer the warm apple mixture to a blender (in batches, if needed). Since the mixture will be hot, remove the center insert of the blender lid, and cover with thick kitchen towel—otherwise the lid might pop off and you and your kitchen could get splattered with hot (albeit delicious) apple butter.

Blend to desired consistency. Transfer blended apple butter to a bowl, and repeat with remaining apple mixture. Stir both together to combine.

apple butter in a blender
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Step 7. Store the apple butter

Divide the apple butter evenly between sealable jars or containers, and let cool completely before storing in the refrigerator up to one month.

jars of apple butter with apples
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

What Goes With Apple Butter?

Apple butter is traditionally served over hot biscuits or fluffy pancakes, but it also adds flavor to our favorite apple desserts, such as Apple Butter Doughnuts with Salted-Caramel Glaze or Apple Butter Cinnamon Rolls with Apple Cider Glaze.

Use a dollop to add a touch of sweetness to fall vinaigrettes and marinades. Serve with roasted pork chops or tenderloin. Stir it into oatmeal for the perfect autumnal start to your day.

How to Gift Apple Butter

Homemade apple butter makes an easy and delicious holiday or hostess gift. To get the jars ready for delivery, apply a round gift tag sticker to the top of each jar, and write the recipe name so that recipients know what they're getting. If you're feeling fancy, place each jar on a square of burlap, gather the edges up around the jar top, and tie with a ribbon or jute to secure.

Do You Have To Use a Slow Cooker to Make Apple Butter?

Absolutely not, but you should, because it frees you up to do so many other things instead of having to keep an eagle eye on a simmering pot.

Like syrup making, preparing apple butter was a seasonal community event. For generations, families and friends gathered around large copper kettles set over open fires and shared in the laborious, daylong work of peeling, coring, chopping, seasoning, and boiling apples. After many hours of tending the pots, they were rewarded with delicious caramel-colored apple butter.

This method for Crockpot apple butter is not as labor-intensive, but you get the same delicious results.

Who Inspired This Apple Butter Recipe?

Walter Harrill of Imladris Farm in Spring Mountain, N.C., is well acquainted with this tradition. He lives and works on land settled by his great-grandparents and grew up watching his grandmother make apple butter in her own kettle on the stove.

Today, he continues the custom with a few modern adaptations. Harrill follows his grandmother's method, which he sells to the public ($8 for a 12-oz. jar, imladrisfarm.com). We adapted his recipe using a mix of sweet and tart apples. Instead of standing for hours at the stovetop, you can use your convenient slow cooker to do the all the work.

Editorial contributions by Josh Miller.

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds mixed apples, peeled and cored (such as Gala, Granny Smith, Fuji, Brandywine, or Golden Delicious)

  • 3 cups granulated sugar, divided

  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

  1. Cut apples into 1-inch cubes; place apple cubes and 1 ½ cups of the sugar in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH 6 hours.

  2. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and remaining 1 ½ cups sugar. Cover; cook on LOW until apples are very soft, 4 hours.

  3. Place half of apple mixture in a blender. Secure lid on blender, and remove center piece to allow steam to escape. Place a clean towel over opening. Pulse until smooth or to desired texture; repeat with remaining apple mixture. Cool completely. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 month.

  4. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender to blend the apple mixture. Place the immersion blender in the slow cooker, and blend until smooth and spreadable. Cool completely. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 month.

    Slow Cooker Apple Butter
    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox
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