Rustic Homemade Apple Butter

Apple Butter straight from the jar

Apple Butter is like a rich cousin to applesauce.

Nothing says “autumn” like homemade apple butter. For me, it is as much a part of this season as fall leaves, crisp mornings and delectable pumpkin pie.

Apple butter is like a rich cousin to applesauce. It is thicker, more concentrated and oh, so decadent. It can be used as a side dish (like apple sauce), sandwich spread (great with ham and turkey), as a baking substitute to reduce fat in a recipe or as a topping for your morning toast.

But my all time favorite way to eat apple butter is with a spoon, right out of the jar!

Apples in Crates

Try using a mixture of sweet & tart apples.

I make apple butter with my own homegrown apples (Anna, Dorsett, Fuji and Beverly Hills), but you can certainly use any cooking apple such as Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, McIntosh or Winesap. Better yet, use a mixture of sweet and tart apples to create something really spectacular.

Although homemade apple butter is traditionally a labor-intensive process, modern technology (namely, a Crockpot) can make it really easy. You start with a little over a dozen apples and slow cook them over a 24-hour period in the Crockpot. Then you measure and add the appropriate amount of sugar and spices before filling your canning jars and processing.

It really is that simple.

The best part? For 24 hours, your entire house will be filled with the wonderful aromas of apples, spices and of course…autumn memories.


12 – 14 apples
2 cups apple juice
ground cinnamon
ground allspice
ground cardamom


Wash, but do not peel, then core and quarter all the apples. Combine the prepared apples with the juice in a lightly oiled crock-pot. Cover and cook on LOW for 10 – 18 hours or on HIGH for 2 – 4 hours.

When the fruit is tender, put it through a food mill to remove the peel. Measure the strained fruit and return it to the crock-pot. For each pint of cooked fruit add 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon each allspice and cardamom. Stir well. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 hours, stirring occasionally, then remove the cover and continue to cook 3 – 5 more hours until thick enough to mound up on a spoon.

Spoon the hot apple butter into hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. If necessary add more hot apple butter to maintain 1/4 inch headspace. Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. (For more information on the water bath method and canning, visit my article on “Water Bath Basics 101”)

Remove jars from the canner to cool. Check seals. Store sealed jars for up to one year on the pantry shelf. Any unsealed jars need to be stored in the refrigerator and used with in 2-3 weeks.

Freezing: If you do not wish to process the apple sauce for pantry storage, you can freeze it. It keeps very nicely this way. Just ladle into freezer safe jars, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace (for expansion). Cover, label and freeze. Use within 6 months for best results.

Makes approximately 5 to 6 half-pints.

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Theresa Loe is the Co-Executive Producer and the canning/homesteading expert on Growing A Greener World TV. She creates seasonally inspired pantry items based on homegrown and locally-sourced produce. A lifelong canner and a graduate of the Master Food Preserver Program, Theresa also studied sustainable horticulture and culinary arts. She also blogs at LivingHomegrown about homesteading & preserving. Follow her on Google+ and download her FREE CANNING RESOURCE GUIDE.


  1. says

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  2. Connie says

    Theresa – I was checking your page to refresh my apple butter strategy for this year. I make Golden Delicious apple butter but I never use any sugar. It is delicious as is although it is darker than it might be with sugar. And, I never use apple juice…just a little water to get it all started. I do put it through the food mill but I was thinking of using my cuisinart this year and leaving the skin in the final product for fiber. I also freeze mine and I and people I gift it to seem to love it as they come back for more. Is there a reason I should use sugar that I am missing?

  3. Ally Roscoe says

    Could I also do this with pears? I have a ton of pears and am running out of suitable ideas for them. THANKS!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Absolutely Ally!

      You might want to adjust the spices, but they will not affect the rest of the recipe. I suggest you use a little orange juice (just a splash) and some nutmeg. But you could just use cinnamon if that is what you prefer.


      Should be very yummy!

  4. Heather says

    Hi Theresa,

    I’ve been canning produce and making apple butter for about 20 years. While my family and I always enjoy the end product, the actual process of making apple butter was something I did not look forward to. I have to say that your idea to use a crockpot is truly inspired! I’ve just tried this method and will never go back to using the stovetop.

    Regarding the spices used, may I suggest a bit of clove in place of the cardamom, and vanilla beans instead of vanilla extract? My family members love these spices in the apple butter, and I really enjoy the look of the small specks of vanilla in the jars.

    Thank you once again for this fantastic idea!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Shirley,

      Absolutely you can make this in the springtime. I had it as a fall recipe because that is when my apple trees are producing. But you can make it any time you have apples on hand.


    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Helen,
      You are in luck! In this case, the sugar is not the preservative. It is used more to stabilize the color and to add flavor.

      Some apples are sweeter than others, so you can reduce your sugar if you feel you need to. It is safe to do so with this recipe. However, you may get a darker product. If this is a concern, you can add some ascorbic acid (available where canning supplies are sold). It is powdered vitamin C and it is used to retain color in canning. The label of the ascorbic acid will give you instructions for using.

      I bet your house smells wonderful with all that apple butter being made! Let me know how your next batch comes out.

  5. says

    Theresa, I don’t do canning anymore, so I’m wondering: might this be frozen? I make all kinds of freezer jam (uses way less sugar) and of course freeze pear preserves and cranberry sauce, so I’m thinking this will work as well?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Jodi-

      Absolutely it can be frozen. Sometimes you have some discoloration (browning) of the butter, but other than that, it will freeze beautifully!

      To prevent discoloration, you can add a tablespoon or lemon juice. But really, the best method to prevent browning is to add a little ascorbic acid. You can find it where ever you buy canning supplies. It is different from citric acid. Ascorbic acid is powdered vitamin C and you can dissolve a teaspoon or so in some apple juice and add it to the mix before freezing. (There should be instructions on the jar.) It really helps hold the color and gives you a bit of a Vitamin C boost at the same time.

      When you freeze, label the containers and use within 6 months to one year for best flavor and texture.

      Have fun!

  6. says

    Theresa, what if you don’t have a food mill to remove the peels? Someone asked this question on Twitter but I missed your response. And yes I am asking because I hope to make this in the next week and don’t have a food mill. : )

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Tink,
      Yes, someone did ask on twitter and it is an excellent question.

      Here was my answer: If you don’t have a food mill, no worries. You can do one of two things, if you want to keep the rustic feel and have some peel in the butter, chop up the apples small before cooking so that the peels will be bite size. Option two is to peel the apples before cooking and you will end up with a smooth, creamy butter with no chunks. Most people prefer option two – no peel at all.

      Both ways are good – but I happen to one of those people that like peel in my apple sauce, but NOT in my apple butter. So if I did not have a food mill, I would peel my apples before making the apple butter. I like the creamy smooth texture best.

      Hope that helps. Let me know how it turns out. Each batch can be unique based on the type of apples you choose. Enjoy!