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Easy apple butter recipe: It doesn't have butter in it

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My neighbor, Shirley, does it again - she brought over this Kerr jar of fresh apple butter she just made.  If you're heading out to any local orchard soon near the Twin Cities or enticed to buy that bag of apples on sale at Cub, applesauce is one option - apple butter takes it to another level!

Apple butter is generally fabulous on breads you'd consume in the morning.  But it certainly makes a great peanut butter -n - jelly sandwich option.  I would even suggest you try a ham - cream cheese - applebutter sandwich on thick brown bread.  Now that is a celebration of fall flavors at lunch time!

What Apples are Best for Apple Butter?

After viewing several cooking sites, there is no consensus on what apple works best. Use what you have available locally.  The only opinion I saw that might be worth noting is that a more tart apple might be good for apple butter, since you're adding sugar to it.  But then my own thought is - "If I use a sweeter apple, then perhaps I could use less white sugar!"

So, here's the recipe Shirley used for the Apple Butter she gave me yesterday.  

Applebutter (Makes about 2 quarts  (8 cups) in this recipe)
Note: 1 large apple makes about 1/4 cup sauce - so, if you do some fancy math, this recipe assumes you cooked up about 32 apples - don't fret too much about numbers here....apples come in different sizes and cook down differently...)

To make applesauce base:
Peel, core and chop into small cubes all the apples you have.  In a very large pot, cook them down until it resembles what you know as applesauce - nice and soft. You could use a slow cooker on medium low, too. Make the applesauce smooth by putting it in a food processor or blender to puree. 

Note - if you are panicking about not having enough sauce or just want to skip this whole apple cooking thing, buy a few big jars of UN-sweetened applesauce.  Not as much fun but you can still say you made the apple butter. 

To make apple butter:

  • 8 cups of pure unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 cups of white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspice

Cook all ingredients on low heat till it simmers and then stir occasionally - I recommend a very wide pot so the moisture evaporates more.  In fact, put your recipe in two big pots. Continue cooking until the top of your applebutter starts to create a firmness - this is your indication it is done.  This can take 1 - 2 hours if you have been stirring it. 

An extra test for doneness:  Chill a plate in the freezer.  Spoon a tiny bit of your still-piping-hot sauce on to the plate.  If water seeps out of that spoonful, continue cooking.  Don't start doing this additional method until you see firmness on top, as indicated above.  You will drive yourself crazy with anticipation and wonderment of when is this stuff ever going to get done!

When done - put in open containers until cooled. 

Storage: Then you can put them in jars or Tupperware.  You should give some away to friends and family, too, so buy smaller containers!  This will last 3 weeks in fridge if you have been regularly opening it and using it.  It might last longer than that but I am not officially going to recommend it in this column. 

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