Oh yes! Apple season is back and I’m one happy lady. I gave my slow cooker a bit of a break over the summer and instead worked my ice cream maker all summer long. Let’s just say it’s a good thing bathing suit season is over.
Here we are with cooler mornings, new flavors and, at least in my house, lots and lots of soccer. So, it’s time to start planning ahead for meals and freeing up my afternoon for driving, homework and prepping for the next day. It’s also time to give into the temptation of those bags of apples in the store that just call out, “buy me!” Who am I to say “no?” The reality is that there isn’t a whole lot you can do with apples in the slow cooker beyond applesauce, baked apples, apple butter and apparently apple crisp, which I am going to have to try.
I went with the familiar and decided that if apple butter was similar enough to the blueberry butter I had made before, then at least I’d have a clue in my experiment. I ran some slow cooker apple butter recipe searches and came up with this one from the Food Network website. What I didn’t like was that it involved apples, applesauce (from a jar) and 4 cups of sugar. Seriously? Applesauce is so easy to make in the slow cooker, this just seemed like a lot of unnecessary extra work, especially peeling, coring and cutting the apples. Way too much work.
Starting from the premise that apple butter is really applesauce that is thickened with a longer cooking time and some sugar, I got started cutting apples. No peeling, coring or cutting more than twice. As my apples cooked and the additional members of my house continuously asked what smelled so good, I knew I was headed toward deliciousness. So, I kept a little from the Food Network recipe, added more of my own, covered my pot and started cooking. I’ve never had apple butter before, but this is a new family favorite for sure.
Crock It! Apple Butter
1/2 peck* apples cut in quarters (I used Paula Reds because they make pink applesauce)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup apple juice
3/4 cup sugar
Cut apples into quarters and place in slow cooker (no need to remove skin, seeds or stems; see photo above).
Add all remaining ingredients except sugar.
Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours. About halfway through cooking time, stir up the apples and mush them down.
When they are all soft and cooked press them through a food mill, just as if you were making applesauce.
Return applesauce to slow cooker and add sugar.
Cook uncovered (or with the lid propped open with a chopstick or wooden spoon) for another 5 hours. It should be the consistency of ketchup when done.
Notes from my experience:
After my 5 hours of thickening, I didn’t think the apple butter was the right consistency; it needed to be thicker. I poured it into a pot, added 1/4 cup of sugar and cooked it at a low boil for about 10 to 15 minutes. Feel free to use this method if necessary.
I have come to prefer fruit butters to jelly as they are typically not as sweet. This recipe allows for the true apple and spice flavor to shine without being overly sweet. But, if you prefer more sugar, go for it.
* Most supermarket apples are sold in half-peck bags. If you’ve picked your own, use five to six pounds of apples.