Apple butter: Each year, it seems to solidify its place as a fall staple and a treasured hipster holiday gift, making an appearance in your better-than-average gift basket. If you’ve never heard of or had the stuff, well, you’re certainly missing out. And if you have, you know it’s so darn good that you can sometimes be tempted to eat it by the spoonful.
“Apple butter is a great substitute for real butter. It’s actually a product that enhances every dish, from cheese to seared salmon,” says Chef Dennis Foy of Cafe Loret, meaning you can feel good about it if you’re dedicated to cleaner-ish eating.
Bonnie Shuman, Executive Chef of Weaver’s Way, a Philadelphia, Pa.-based co-op, notes that apple butter will obviously be a star ingredient in a lot of desserts. “But it also really shines in savory dishes, particularly pork or chicken,” she says. “Apple butter can serve as a sweet and sticky glaze—kind of like a barbecue sauce might. I like to use vinegar, mustard, or Worcestershire to cut the sweetness, and depending on the crowd, some sauce from adobe chilis. These recipes are great all year—especially on the grill!” And lucky for you, Shuman adds that your apple butter will last for about six months in the freezer. Score.
If you’re a total purist and like the seasonality of the dish, there’s one simple way Foy recommends enhancing your apple butter experience: “There’s nothing quite like a great baguette that’s been split and spread with apple butter, Gorgonzola, roasted garlic, and reduced balsamic vinegar.”
So, how do I make this yummy apple butter goodness, anyway?
Chef Debbie Lee, who you’d recognize from Food Network and who owns a healthy meal delivery service, Mind Body Fork, recommends opting for Fuji or Honey Crisp apples as they render a better flavor for your recipes. “They also have a nice natural sugar so you don’t have to overload with tons of sugar and spices—I always say less is more.”
Meanwhile, Shuman argues that really any kind of softer apple will do the trick: “Cortland, Grimes Golden, Jonamac are all good varieties for apple butter that are local to me in Pennsylvania, but there are lots of good options out there.”
Here’s how two of our chefs will get you crackin’ on your own apple butter, via their recipes that utilize a crock pot:
Slow Cooker Apple Butter Recipe by Chef Dennis Foy of Cafe Loret
- 5 apples, cored and diced, no seeds, no need to peel
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 star anise pod
- 1 teaspoon cardamon
How to make Slow Cooker Apple Butter
1. Place all ingredients in the crock of your slow cooker. It should be large enough to work the apples, as they must be turned as they cook and reduce over time. The goal is to cook without causing the natural fructose to burn the bottom of your pot. In a crock pot, this is not an issue as the process can be accomplished over 10-12 hours.
2. Set to low, and stir often once the liquid is rendered and begins reducing. The process is long and slow for a better yield. Cook for up to 10 or more hours, stirring occasionally, until the apple butter is reduced and thick enough for your liking.
3. Puree for a super smooth texture. Run through a food mill, use a blender, or place in a Cuisinart.
Slow Cooker Five Spice Fuji Apple Butter Recipe by Chef Debbie Lee
- 6 large Fuji apples, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 star anise pods
- 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons vanilla
How to make Slow Cooker Five Spice Fuji Apple Butter
1. Combine all ingredients in the crock of your slow cooker.
2. Cook on high for 4-5 hours. The apples should be super tender and starting to break down.
3. Remove star anise and cinnamon. With an immersion blender, puree apples until smooth.
5. Return star anise and cinnamon to slow cooker. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook down for another 3 hours or so, until apple butter has formed the desired concentration.
6. Remove and transfer to two sterile canning jars. Seal jars and sanitize.
Enjoy your apple butter or share with friends as a great gift!
And see how to use apple butter in lots more inventive—and delicious—ways.
Related Video: How to Make Apple Butter-Glazed Turkey
Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.