Celebrate the Harvest… with Apple Butter

If you’ve ever been to a tiny, family-run New England inn at harvest time (or if you’re lucky enough to have a mom, aunt, grandma or godmother who lives there), you’ve probably gotten to know the pure decadence that is a heaping spoonful of apple butter spread over your toast. Apple butter is rich and delicious, a true treat. But contrary to its name, apple butter doesn’t actually contain any butter at all!

Apple butter is actually a super-concentrated form of applesauce, closer to jam than it is to butter. Some recipes call for cooking apple butter all day, and while these versions are delicious, it’s not really necessary, for a few reasons. Firstly, apple butter is quite easy to make in small batches. If you can devote about an hour to it every other weekend, you should have enough to feed your family. Secondly, apple butter is an easy thing to can for winter, but it’s just as easy to can your homemade applesauce and make apple butter as you need it. Applesauce requires a lot less attention than apple butter as it cooks. Less stress!

When making apple butter, bear in mind that a lot of this “recipe” is based on personal taste. It depends on how sweet you want the final product to be, as well as how sweet your original applesauce was. I make my homemade applesauce in big batches using fairly sour apples, to create a base that I can use as a sweet or savory ingredient. With a fairly acidic applesauce, this recipe makes a perfectly sweet butter. If you’re making your own applesauce, decide what acidity you want for the variety of apples you use. Start with about 3/4 of the sugar, and continue to add it as you go, if you think it needs to be sweeter.

Once you’ve made your own apple butter, why not try other fruit butters? Pumpkin butter is a delicious fall treat. You may still have time to try plum butter before the end of the season as well!

Apple Butter Recipe

2 cups unsweetened organic applesauce (homemade is best!)
1 scant cup sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt

Put all of the ingredients in a shallow, wide pan (I use a heavy-bottomed frying pan) and heat over low heat. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon, being sure to scrape the bottom as you stir. Cook for about 30-40 minutes, until the purée has thickened; a dollop on a cold plate (from the freezer) should be thick, not runny. Store in the fridge or can in glass jars.

Image: Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco