You too can boil apples

The night of the October snow storm, just as the rain gave way to giant white flakes, I was en route to the Chestnut Hill Mall to go to Sur la Table to get a food mill. I was coming off the first dress rehearsal from the play I was in this fall and was a little more animated than usual. The friendly salesperson rolled with my rapid speech and thinking out loud as we examined almost every food mill in the place, before I revealed that I had come in for the OXO one. We talked about what I needed it for, I explained that I was making apple butter and the whole silly pageant hit a funny freeze frame. The sales attendant got a rapturous look on her face and actually pressed her hands to her belly. When she spoke again there was yearning in her voice, “You’re making apple butter?”

I realize that apple butter is old-timey and smacks a little of grandmothers and well-stocked pantries and hot fluffy biscuits, but I was surprised, as I always am, when people seem so worshipful of something that is, in its technique at least, easy to make.

If you have never had apple butter before. Try some. It’s delicious. If you have never made apple butter before, well I hope this post will encourage you to do so.

There is nuance, but the basic recipe and technique for apple butter is this:

  1. Boil apples in fluid they will taste good in until soft. 1/2 C fluid per pound of apples.
  2. Remove seeds. Add sugar and other flavors to taste.
  3. Boil apples again until incredibly thick.

More specifically:

Apple Butter Joy of Cooking (P. 836 in the 1995 edition).

  • 4 lbs apples washed, stemmed, quartered. Cook slowly until soft in…
  • 2 C water, cider or cider vinegar. Put fruit through a fine strainer. Add to each cup of pulp…
  • 1/2 C white or brown sugar. Add to the strained fruit…
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp allspice (grated lemon rind and juice). Cook the fruit butter over low heat, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture sheets from a spoon. You can also place a small quantity on a plate. When no rim of liquid separates around the edge of the butter, it is done. Pour into hot sterilized jars.

My variations

I. Dark Brown Sugar Caramel

  • Boil apples in 1 C Water, 1 C cider vinegar
  • Instead of sugar, sweeten with 1 batch dark brown sugar caramel syrup (recipe below)
  • Flavor with 2 tsp vanilla added after apple butter has cooked down and is removed from the heat.

Dark Brown Sugar Caramel Syrup Joy of Cooking (P. 791 in the 1995 edition).

  • To 1-1/2 Tbl melted butter add
  • 1-1/2 C dark brown sugar and…
  • 6 Tbl water
  • Stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook 3 minutes until the steam has washed down the sides of the  pan. Uncover and cook without stirring to the soft-ball stage, 234 degrees.

II. Mulled Wine

  • Boil apples in 2 C cheap red wine that you would drink. Preferably something light and dry. I used 100% grenache.
  • Instead of sugar sweeten with 1 batch ginger syrup (recipe below)
  • Flavor by cooking down the strained apples with a small cinnamon stick, 10 cloves, 1 Tbl orange rind, 1-1/2 tsp lemon rind, 2 whole allspice (preferably in a spice bag). Taste often. Remove when spices start to taste edgy and sharp.

Ginger syrup – Made a half of the recipe found here.

  • I only recently learned this. Peel ginger quickly and easily with a spoon.

III. Apple Pie

  • Boil apples in 1 C white wine, 1 C water
  • Sweeten with 1 C white sugar
  • Flavor by cooking down the strained apples with a large cinnamon stick, 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp allspice, 1 Tbl lemon rind (cinnamon stick and lemon rind in spice bag).

Instructions for canning can be found on p. 802-808 of the 1995 edition of the Joy of Cooking. The Weekly Spoonful also did an awesome post with great details regarding canning jam.



  1. TheWeeklySpoonful · December 5, 2011

    Yum! Definitely inspired to make some apples! :)

  2. Alli · December 4, 2011

    For the record, I definitely don’t believe you have to go to Sur La Table (or any fancy cooking store) for your gadgets. Specifically, for canning type things (jars, food mills) you can often get what you need at a hardware store. SLT was on my way home and I was able to confirm that they had what i wanted in stock at the price I wanted. Convenience trumped my other values there. And as for OXO, I’m not on the pay roll, but the items I have bought from them have been functional, comfortable and durable.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s