Preserved: How to Make Apple Butter in a Slow Cooker
Fall marks the beginning of slow cooker season. Every year when the temperature drops and it starts to get dark before I leave work, I dust off my trusty crock pot and use it to make slow-simmered dishes like beef stew, pulled pork, and black bean chili. But did you know you can also use your slow cooker to make luscious, silky apple butter?
Making apple butter on the stovetop isn't difficult, but it's really something you can only do on a lazy Sunday, when you have the time to stay at home for three or four hours and stir a pot every 15 minutes. When I first began toying with the idea of letting my slow cooker do the dirty work, I researched several recipes. The best primer I found was on the website Simple Bites. It's a piece written by Marisa McClellan who has a great canning blog, Food in Jars (and writes about pickles here on SE!)
What I like about Marisa's method is that she advocates making a simple applesauce and pureeing it with an immersion blender before transferring it to the slow cooker. (This can be done up to a few days in advance.) This results in an incredibly thick, smooth apple butter that is ready to be canned as soon as it comes out of the slow cooker. I also like her restraint with regard to added sweeteners: no more than one to two cups of sugar, honey, or maple syrup. This allows the natural flavor of the apples to really shine through.
For this recipe I used a mix of Gala and Granny Smith apples, and flavored the butter with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Feel free to use your favorite cooking apples and spices. You can process the apple butter in a hot water bath and store it on the shelf for up to six months, or just store it in the fridge for up to two months.
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Lucy Baker is a food writer and the author of The Boozy Baker: 75 Recipes for Spirited Sweets. She is currently at work on a second book about homemade food gifts. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and dachshund.