You don't need very many ingredients to make apple butter.
- Apples- my grandmother always used Jonathan apples. So do I. I usually buy about 1/2 bushel which is something like 40 apples. I've never tried them but you could probably use other varieties of apples such as Gala. Just don't use those nasty red delicious apples.
- Sugar- the white granulated kind
- Oil of cinnamon- Grandma used to buy this at the drugstore. I don't think you'll find it at your local Walgreen's though..at least I haven't. I get mine from here. It takes years to use it all up.
- Red Hots cinnamon candies
Equipment you'll need:
- an apple peeler or corer
- a large pot or two for cooking the apples
- a ricer or food processor (if you're wondering what the heck is a ricer, see this post.
- a crock pot
- a water bath canner
- canning jars and lids
I like to peel my apples first. It helps if you have one of these....
....an apple peeler and a helpful husband.
Once the apples are peeled, cook them covered pan with a very small amount of water (no more than 1/3 cup) over medium heat, stirring frequently so all the apples are cooked evenly. You may have to do this in multiple batches.
When the apples are cooked, put them through the food processor 3 or 4 cups at a time. Process a few seconds until smooth. Be careful not to over-process them...you don't want baby food or apple paste!
And keep some of the cooked apples un-processed.
Warm cooked apples sprinkled with cinnamon sugar are yummy all by themselves. Topped with vanilla ice cream they're heaven.
Put the pureed apples into a crock pot. This is a 7 qt one.
Don't fill the crock brim full. Leave room for the sugar and for simmering. Otherwise you'll have little spots of hot apple butter all over your countertop. Not that I've ever done that. Ahem. If you have more sauce than crock pot, refrigerate the extra and cook it the next day. Or just eat it.
Add 3 cups of sugar to the crock pot to start. You can always add more later.
Put the cover on and cook on high for an hour or until hot and bubbly.
Now comes the magic secret ingredient....
Add 3 or 4 drops to the hot applesauce. That's it. No more. A little of this stuff goes a long way. I use an eye dropper to measure it. Cinnamon oil is strong stuff. Be sure to rinse the eye dropper out immediately after use. If you leave the oil in the dropper overnight, it will melt the plastic. Not that I've ever done that...cough, cough.
Add a handful or two of red hots. They give the apple butter a nice color.
Continue to cook on low for 3 or 4 hours. Stir frequently scraping the sides of the pot as you go. If you don't the sauce next to the pot sides gets thicker than the rest because the sugar is direct contact with the hot pot.
Taste and add more sugar if necessary. If the apple butter seems a little thin, remove the crock lid and cook for another hour or so, letting the extra moisture evaporate a little and thicken the apple butter. It should be thick and a rich reddish brown.
Here's how my apple butter looked at the end of cooking.