Dad’s Apple Butter

Apple Butter seems to taste best if you can get the apples for free.  My dad has no problem knocking on a homeowner’s door if he sees a tree in their yard with apples rotting on the ground underneath.   However, this year he isn’t yet out taking walks through the neighborhood, so he doesn’t have a stash of apples rotting fragrantly in crumpled paper bags in the corner of the kitchen.

I wanted apple butter for myself and loved the idea that my dad felt well enough to tackle the task of making a batch with my mom, so I decided to provide some apples. The first bag was purchased at the Marin Farmer’s Market at a discount as they were “cosmetically challenged” (the photo is from a week later at a different booth with a higher price).   I’d also snagged about 8 or so bruised or wormy apples from a free bin at the Market.    At my choir rehearsal, one of the singers had a big basket of apples from a tree in her yard that I was lucky enough to receive the bulk of (thanks, True).  As I was taking all of these apples to my folks’ house I saw a brown paper grocery sack on an overturned bucket by the curb with “Free Apples” scribbled on the bag.  I pulled over, hopped out and grabbed the bag.  So not every apple was free, but close enough!

Here in his own words is the way my dad makes Apple Butter:

Now you take a bunch of apples and wash ‘em.  [Note from Dianne: a bunch was probably half to three-quarters of a grocery sack]

Now you quarter ‘em, but leave the peels on and just cut out any rotten spots, seeds and core.  Leave as much of the apple as possible. Chunk up into pieces – about the size of the end of your thumb

Fill a large heavy-bottom pot to the brim with apple chunks, add about 1 cup of water.

Heat on high, turn to slow simmer, and watch out for bubbles, they’re HOT

Add water if needed to keep apples from burning.

Stir frequently – don’t go off and read a book!

Cook down until all chunks are soft. Different apples have different moisture content, keep testing.

Put some on saucer to cool and taste – different apples need different amount of sweetening

Add approximately ¼ to ½ cup sugar (or to taste).

Add ½ teaspoon cinnamon and cook for a short time to meld.

Run batches of hot, cooked apple chunks through food mill or food processor, if using mill, you have to go backwards sometimes to unclog.

Pour milled applesauce into baking dish or casserole (or bottom of broiler pan)

Bake at 250 to 275 degree oven.  Now go read your book.

After an hour, stir sauce, scraping down sides, continue to bake 4 to 6 hours, watching and stirring occasionally.  Taste part way through cooking time and adjust sweetener and spice.

Resulting sauce will be a rich brown with a thick texture. Enjoy!

It takes some time and effort, but the rewards (not to mention the heavenly fragrance) are hard to beat.  I enjoyed fresh Apple Butter with cottage cheese (all the better because it was from mom and dad’s open jar and I got to take mine home unopened).

It is wonderful with peanut butter on toast or on pancakes.  I opened my jar Sunday morning and had it on waffles.


Thanks for stopping by.

And thanks, Dad, for sharing your recipe for Apple Butter.


Filed under Cooking, Life

6 responses to “Dad’s Apple Butter

  1. Love the post and the new look to the blog! Well done!

  2. Hey, thanks for noticing! I got some wonderful photos at the Farmer’s Market and I thought the persimmons had a nice fall look.

  3. I am so happy to know that your dad feels well enough to make apple butter. I loved the narration. I’m glad you used his own words. My mom puts cloves and cinnamon in her recipe. When I make apple butter, I always remember the times when my mother’s house was full of the fragrance of cooking apples. Nothing is more comforting than that memory. My mom is like your dad. She’s not shy. She has asked her entire neighborhood to bring their cut grass and rotten fruit to her house for her compost pile. She has the best vegetable garden in the area.

  4. Sarah

    well, the apple falls a bit far from the tree when I make apple butter. First I go to Trader Joe’s and purchase about 4 jars of unsweetened apple sauce (organic if possible). From there, the steps are pretty similar to my dad’s (above) I just leave out all the washing, cutting, rotten spots, coring, milling. I dump the jars into a big roasting pan, season with cinnamon and sugar and do the same long slow bake (stirring frequently and all). Ends up fitting into one of the jars after the long slow time in the oven. It’s probably not quite as good as from scratch but in this day and age it’s still pretty darn good and far enough from store bought to do the job!
    (Dianne’s little sister, David’s youngest daughter)

    • Thanks, Sarah! Sometimes washing, cutting, cooking, and milling just takes more time than I want to spend on a project. I may have to try your version one of these days.

  5. Sarah

    forgot to include that it’s best right out of the oven still hot on a spoon! Don’t waste it on toast!

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