Apples, cinnamon, clove and other warm spices slowly come together to create a comforting condiment for your autumn table.
Midwestern folk are serious about apple butter. Often cooked outdoors over a wood fire in large caldrons and stirred with long wooden paddles, making apple butter takes time and careful attention.
Folks often stew about whether apple butter should be chunky or completely smooth, and they'll argue about the best mix of apples to use. However, we all agree that apple butter is an essential condiment for our fall tables.
I usually purchase a few jars each year—most recently from the apple butter ladies at the church I attend, but the pandemic put an end to that tradition. So, when I tried this recipe for Slow Cooker Spiced Apple Butter, I was curious how close it would come to the pros’ versions. In short, it’s darned delicious.
You may trade the hint of woodsmoke in apple butter that’s cooked over a fire in an iron pot, but you gain the aroma of apples and spices melting in your slow cooker that will fill your kitchen. If Yankee Candle Company doesn’t already have an apple butter scent, I may try to sell them this.
Another thing this recipe has in its corner is after prepping the apples and combining ingredients for the cooker, the appliance does all the work while you go about your day. It makes four pints of comforting apple butter that will keep in your refrigerator for a couple of weeks without a problem; you even can freeze the apple butter, but more on that later. If your mouth is watering now and you simply want to print the recipe, jump to the end. Let’s get cooking!
For this recipe you’ll need:
5½ pounds apples, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces
3 to 3½ cups brown sugar (adjust, depending on sweetness of your apples)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (or 2-3 cinnamon sticks)
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
2 star anise
1 teaspoon butter
This recipe started with a trip to Eckert’s orchards in Grafton, Illinois, in late September. Most of apple varieties had been picked, but there were plenty of Red and Golden Delicious apples on the trees. A few rows of Jonathan apple trees also had fruit. It was a perfect trip to the orchard; the sky was blue, the sun warm and a heady scent of fresh apples was in the autumn air.
(Bit of Missouri culinary history: Stark Bro’s Nursery in Louisiana, Missouri, is credited with cultivating Red Delicious apples in the late 19th century, followed by developing the Golden Delicious in 1914. The nursery dates to 1816.)
Assemble ingredients for your cooker
Peeling, coring and chopping five pounds of apples took me about an hour. My friend Barb, an excellent home cook, found a Pampered Chef apple peeler in a thrift store for me after the apple butter was made. I’m ready for next time, Barb!
After peeling apples, I cut around the cores and then finely sliced each quarter; if you want smoother apple butter, you might want to dice the apples. I also rubbed a teaspoon of butter around the lower sides of the slow cooker to prevent anything from sticking and to add flavor.
Other slow cooker apple butter recipes call for white sugar, but I prefer using brown—dark brown sugar will produce the molasses flavor in the apple butter.
The remainder of ingredients are combined in a bowl, sprinkled over the apples in the cooker and mixed together. Note there is no liquid added. The apples are cooked on the high setting for an hour and finished on low. When I made the apple butter, I started the slow cooker around 8 a.m. and stirred about every three hours until it was finished around 7 p.m.
I slightly mashed the cooked apples before spooning the apple butter into sterile glass containers. They cooled uncovered on my counter for about an hour before I put the lids on the jars and popped them into the refrigerator.
As mentioned earlier, you can freeze the apple butter. If you use glass jars, remember to leave room at the top for any expansion of content. However, I’d feel safer using plastic containers. Honestly, I’d rather gift a few extra jars of delicious apple butter than freeze it for later!
How to enjoy apple butter
Apple butter is wonderful on morning toast, muffins or cinnamon bagels. Here are a few other ideas for using apple butter in your kitchen.
Stuffed French toast: Spread a tablespoon of apple butter on each slice of bread. Make a sandwich before dipping bread in egg mixture and frying in your buttered skillet. Serve with butter and maple syrup.
Dress up morning oatmeal: Swirl a few teaspoons into your cooked oats and top with a pat of butter.
Crown a pork chop fit for a queen: Apples and pork are best buddies, and if you are into the sweet-savory combo, I’ve grilled pork chops and topped them with a dollop of apple butter and some fried sage.
The apple butter ladies at my church may be on hiatus, but Slow Cooker Spiced Apple Butter steps in to fill the gap for me. And if you live in the St. Louis metro area, the delightful small river town of Kimmswick, Missouri, hosts its annual Apple Butter Festival on Oct. 30 and 31 this year. It’s one of the town’s most popular events. Watch apple butter being made and purchase a few jars to bring home. Kimmswick is located about 25 minute south of St. Louis off Interstate 55.
Here’s another apple recipe you will like: Apple Cinnamon Quick Bread