Simple pantry staples are slow-cooked to a smooth and seductively spicy loveliness in this apple butter recipe from chef Hugh Acheson. Guaranteed to evoke autumn each time you open the jar—which, we can assure you, will be frequently.–Hugh Acheson
What Kind Of Apple To Use In This Slow Cooker Apple Butter Recipe
“Find a farm stand that sells local apples and buy a bushel. I love Arkansas Blacks, but you can use any good firm apple that you find.” That’s a plea from chef Hugh Acheson—and us—to buy local heirloom apples for this slow cooker apple butter.
The Southern legend—Acheson, not heirloom apples—has a lot more to say on the topic. “’The apple of my eye’ means something that you are enamored with and in awe of, something worthy of your love. And indeed, for me, apples from Northeast Georgia fit that bill. My heart is aflutter for the apples whose names have not been copyrighted. Arkansas Black, Winesap, Rome Beauty, Roxbury Russet, and Esopus Spitzenburg are all illustrious varietals that will join the long roster of extinct Southern apples unless we do one simple thing: buy them. Sadly, we have convinced a generation that love is cheap and always available on the supermarket shelf, with its little affixed stickers and small-print labels that whisper of faraway origins. These are commodities that have slowly pushed the local harvest to obscurity. I want to rekindle a romance.” Yeah. Exactly what he said.
Slow Cooker Apple Butter
- 6-quart or larger slow cooker
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or 1 teaspoon ascorbic or citric acid powder
- 9 pounds local apples, (such as Winesap, Rome Beauty, Arkansas Black, or just about any variety that you like)
- 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup nonalcoholic apple cider
- Fill a very large bowl or stock pot with cold water and stir in the lemon juice, ascorbic acid powder, or citric acid powder.
- Peel and core the apples and cut them into eighths. As you work, drop the apple pieces into the acidulated water to keep them from browning. When all the apples are peeled and cut, drain the apples and discard the water.
- Place the apples in your slow cooker. Add the sugar, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, salt, vanilla, and cider, and toss well.
- Turn your slow cooker to high and cook for 1 hour.
- Turn the slow cooker down to low and cook for 7 1/2 to 8 hours, or until the apple butter is “jammy” in consistency. Stir regularly throughout the cooking process, and more frequently toward the end of the process. Be careful of splatters, as nothing smarts quite like hot jam. If a thicker consistency is desired, uncover the apple butter, increase the heat to high, and cook, uncovered by the lid but covered with a splatter screen, until more of the moisture evaporates, another hour or two.
☞ TESTER TIP: If a smoother apple butter is desired, simply use your immersion blender to make it smooth.
- Transfer the apple butter to sterilized canning jars of your choice—just make sure they aren't chipped or cracked. Fill the jars to 1 inch from the top and screw on the lids and bands. Let cool for 2 hours.
- Keep the apple butter in the fridge for up to 3 weeks or hot-process according to the jar manufacturer’s instructions and keep on the shelf for up to 10 months.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This slow cooker apple butter is worth every minute. Really easy and mostly hands-free.
This is one time I really appreciated my apple peeler gadget. I have an oval 6-quart slow cooker, and I just barely got all my apples in there. I think next time I will play around with a bit more spice, but this had a nice mild flavor. I will admit, I don’t have local apples. (Hawaii is sorely lacking in apple orchards—but we have really great pineapple!)
One great side effect of this recipe was that the house smelled absolutely wonderful for the entire day.
In some sense, all recipes for things like apple butter are a little vague. Part of the reason is that the cooking time depends on several factors. In this case, the quantity and type of apple, the type and age of slow cooker, the amount of liquid and sugar added, and the experience of the cook. Because I’ve made pear and peach butter in the past, I knew how to get my result to look like the one in the picture. The flavor was very good. I would make this again.
I made a few tweaks. I used a 4-quart slow cooker and followed the recipe up to the 7 1/2-hour mark, at which point the sauce still looked loose and very chunky. I used my immersion blender and made it smooth. Then I replaced the lid with a splatter screen. (Some recipes just call for propping open the lid instead.) I cooked it for another hour and then raised the temperature to high for another half hour. At this point, the color was similar to the one in the picture. (It’s difficult to go by the picture because it doesn’t really convey the actual consistency of the apple butter.)
I water-processed the apple butter because that’s what I do with jams during this season. However, I still store everything in the fridge for safety’s sake.