Apple butter is very easy to make whether you use already made unsweetened applesauce from the store or you are making own your applesauce from scratch. Although, if making your own applesauce it does take more time to prepare, cook, then puree the apples, and then cook some more just until thickened. However, you can be certain of and control the ingredients going into it.
It can also be a great way to use up those apples that are starting to get a little soft and getting wrinkled peels or sliced apples that haven’t been eaten and are turning brown. In fact, oxidized apples are naturally sweeter and require less (if any) sugar.
When making apple butter, I peel and slice my apples the day before, toss with 1/4 tsp salt which helps to pull out excess liquid for a thicker apple butter, and then allow to sit on the counter overnight to oxidize and turn brown before draining off the liquid and making them into apple butter. That way I will only need half, to as little as a third, as much brown sugar. Just taste test and adjust the amount of sugar as needed.
While not necessary, you can do this for applesauce as well but it will be brown in color — yet sweeter with less (or without any) additional added sugar. Just taste test and adjust the amount of sugar as needed.
Many like eating unsweetened applesauce already and will find this step unnecessary. But it is good a way for those who like sweetened applesauce to have it taste sweeter without adding as much (if any) sugar — provided you don’t mind brown colored applesauce. Just taste test and adjust the amount of sugar as needed. (Hmmmmm — did I say that already? Must be important!)
Applesauce is simply peeled, chopped apples (of course discard the core) that have been covered in water, brought to a boil, the heat reduced, then simmered until very tender (about half an hour), well drained, then pureed until smooth in a blender or food processor. Then if it seems a little too watery you can line a colander or wire mesh strainer with coffee filters or a triple layer or more of paper towels, set it over or inside a mixing bowl, and pour your applesauce into it, then allow how ever much time is needed to drain excess liquid. Return applesauce to the pot (empty; no water) and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and it has thickened (referred to as reduce, reduced, reducing, reduction). That’s really all there is to it.
Optionally, you can add a dash of salt and granulated sugar or sucralose (currently the only zero calorie sugar substitute safe for cooking/baking/canning) to taste while it is being simmered to thicken. Again, taste test, taste test, taste test!
NOTE: Do NOT sweeten if you are going to make it into apple butter!
For apple butter you are basically just adding some brown sugar, cinnamon and ground clove to your already prepared UNSWEETENED applesauce. Maybe a little allspice (optional); then bringing it to a boil, reducing the heat, and letting it simmer another 15 minutes to meld the flavors.
Again, just taste test and adjust the amount of sugar and spices as needed. If unsure, start with 1/2 tsp of any spice (1/4 tsp for stronger spices such as cloves) and slowly increase until it tastes good!
If diabetic, watching your sugar intake or your waist line, you can mix 3 to 3-1/2 cups sucralose with 1 cup brown sugar and store in an airtight container. Use it just like you would a container of brown sugar. Or you can purchase an already made sucralose and brown sugar blend from the store. For now it is more economical to make your own but that may change soon since it is now available in store and other brands.
Once made applesauce and apple butter will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or you can store it in the freezer for about a year.
If you’d rather make a large batch and have it sit on a shelf, however, then you will need to pour it into hot sterilized canning jars — while it is still hot itself — and follow proper canning techniques.
It takes three to four medium apples to make about one cup to 1-1/3 cups of applesauce or apple butter. Apple sizes can vary thus so can the yield. For applesauce and apple butter any kind of apple will do (oh, I can hear the outcries already) — depending upon personal preference for sweet or tart. Firmer apples take longer to cook and soften while softer, mealy apples take less time to cook and soften.
Here is what the Farmer’s Almanac has to say about the “right” apples to choose for various apple recipes:
But, as I said already on my blog about seasonings and seasoning blends, it all boils down to personal taste and preferences. If isn’t required for specific chemical reactions such ingredients required for leavening or fermentation, then you get to decide what does or doesn’t go!
Speaking of which, you can use this recipe to make pear sauce and pear butter! That’s right … you can even replace apples with pears! They tend to be just a bit to a whole lot firmer than most apples depending upon the variety chosen so will take longer to cook and become tender than apples but will otherwise work just the same — only pear flavored.
Applesauce and Apple Butter
- 6 to 7 medium apples, peeled, sliced, core discarded
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar (or sucralose brown sugar blend substitute), or to taste
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (if oxidizing apples)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice (optional), or to taste
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar (or sucralose) or to taste (only if making sweetened applesauce)
The night before, toss prepared apples with 1/4 tsp salt and allow to sit at room temperature overnight to oxidize (turn brown). Only do this if making apple butter unless you don't mind your applesauce being brown in color.
To make applesauce: Place apples in large pot and just cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until nice and tender. Drain well then puree in blender or food processor until smooth. (If appears too watery, put in coffee filter or triple layer paper towel lined colander over or inside of large bowl to drain off excess liquid). Return to empty pot, bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thickened stirring occasionally.. You now have unsweetened applesauce. (If only making applesauce and plan to stop here then, if desired, you can add salt and granulated sugar to taste while it is still hot).
To make apple butter: Add remaining ingredients (adjust to taste) to 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer an additional 15 minutes.
Store in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or the freezer for up to a year. Otherwise, while still hot, pour into hot sterilized canning jars and proceed with proper canning technique.
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