Even though I am in the habit of cooking and baking from scratch, apple butter is one of those food items I associate with being jarred and found at a roadside farm stand in Massachusetts, without any knowledge or curiosity about how it got that way. It’s untouchable, and thus, I had never even wondered about how to make it until a week ago when I found myself with a lot of extra apples. I was apple desserted-out, but I don’t have the gadget for making applesauce, so I read through all of my apple recipes and stumbled upon apple butter. It’s a time-consuming recipe in the sense of having to be around the apple butter as it cooks, but it isn’t too labor-intensive. I liken it to a small child taking a nap: you must monitor and never leave the house, but meanwhile, you can fold laundry, read the paper, or crochet.


I first stumbled upon apple butter at one of these roadside stands while at college, but was too intimidated by the dark color and didn’t know what to do with it. Then I had popovers and apple butter at Judie’s Restaurant in Amherst, and it was love at first taste. In New York, before I lived here, I dined at the Popover Cafe with a good college friend, and again, apple butter made an appearance. But, I wasn’t cooking so much then and wasn’t curious about the “science” of food either, asking questions like why do popovers pop? These are the questions that get me out of bed as I’m trying to fall asleep!


On Sunday, I decided to attempt some apple butter-making, and if I can buy a popover pan in time, I will serve popovers and apple butter on Thanksgiving. Instead of apple juice, I used spiced apple cider+cranberry juice from the previous day, a concoction I cooked up for Crafts and Crumbs. Your house will smell divine from the slow-cooking of apples, sugar, and spices. Hopefully you have a cute spice rack (surrounded by your apron collection) like the one above with the bottles labeled, which I discovered in an antique shop in Cold Spring. I couldn’t commit to it, walked around the town more, got caught in a thunderstorm and downpour, raced back to the shop as they were locking the door to close up! I calmly but eagerly said, “Oh no! I want to buy a spice rack, I know exactly where it is!” I ran to the back of the store, then to the front, slapped down $10, and was happy as ever.

Apple Butter

12 medium Granny Smith or other cooking apples, peeled and cut into fourths
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 1/4 cups apple juice
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Heat all ingredients to boiling in a 4-quart Dutch oven, or just a large pot like I did. Stir occasionally, then reduce heat. Cover with lid and simmer for 1 hour.

Mash the apples with a potato masher or large fork. I had neither, unfortunately, so I saved my arm muscles and cheated by throwing the mixture into the food processor for 10 seconds. (More dishes, less work and time involved)


Simmer uncovered for about another hour, stirring occasionally. The mixture should get very thick, almost like whole cranberry sauce, and it will be very dark brown. Because I food processed mine, and the liquid combined with the solids, it bubbled a lot and “spit” out of the pot. I put the lid on for most of this hour. In hindsight, I should have only pulsed it a few times in the processor, and then processed at the end.

Cool for 2 hours and spoon into a container. It stays good in the fridge for 3 weeks.

If I had proper canning materials, I think this would be a great Christmas gift. If you have a few buddies to help you peel and chop the apples, then you could make multiple batches at once and put them in cute jam jars with the pieces of material tied on top.