What Is Apple Butter?

Fall never tasted so good.

Apple butter spread on toast

Pictured Recipe: Apple Butter

The change in seasons means a change in produce—while saying goodbye to summer berries is always bittersweet, it makes room in our pantry for loads of apples. Whether you couldn't resist the shiny Honeycrisps at the grocery store or you went crazy picking your own apples at a nearby orchard, one of the best (and easiest) ways to make use of fall apples is with apple butter. Here, we'll tell you what it is, how to make it and give you a few recipes for using it.

What Is Apple Butter?

Contrary to its name, apple butter does not contain any butter; rather, apple butter is made up of fresh apples (peeled, cored and diced) cooked with apple cider until the apples break down to a jammy consistency. Other ingredients like sugar and spices are added to give it extra flavor, but some cooks rely on the natural sugars in the apples to make it delicious.

Apple Butter versus Applesauce

Apple butter and applesauce are similar. The key difference is that applesauce is made with water and sugar and fewer spices. Applesauce is also eaten on its own as a snack or as a side dish while apple butter, with its more concentrated flavor, is used as a condiment or topping for toast or muffins.

Best Apples for Apple Butter

The apples you choose to use will influence how your apple butter will turn out. Try sweet and mellow apples like Braeburn or Pink Lady apples. Apple butter has a long cooking time and so you also want to choose apples that are soft because they break down quickly and lend the creamiest texture. Steer clear of Granny Smith apples, which are a bit too hard and tart for butter. If Fuji and Golden Delicious are available, they also work well.

Methods for Making Apple Butter

Apple butter can be cooked in a slow-cooker, in a pot on the stovetop or roasted in the oven—there's a method for any cook! Generally, on the stovetop, you simmer the apples with light or dark brown sugar, cinnamon and cloves for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the cooked apples are very soft, you can run them through a food mill or blender to smooth it out before being cooked down further. When it's done, stir in lemon juice for balance. For a slow cooker, put all the ingredients in the slow cooker and set it and forget it for 2 to 3 hours. Roasting the apples is the absolute simplest apple butter recipe and method—the apples are roasted with apple juice in a roasting pan, mashed with a potato masher and then roasted a little longer.

Ways to Use Apple Butter

There are few breakfasts that give you a taste of fall quite like apple butter on toast does, but this sauce can be used all sorts of ways to boost a meal or dish. It can be made into a topping for pancakes and waffles, mixed into a cake batter or even muffins. If you're ambitious, you can experiment with working it into fruit bars, glazing chicken breasts with it, slathering it on a ham sandwich or just swirling it into oatmeal.

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