Apple butter question

oasisownerSeptember 4, 2012

We are getting ready for apple season and I was looking at the Ball and NCHFP directions.

In the past, I have cooked apples with a little water, run them through the Squeezo, cooked down, and added sugar to taste (sometimes none).

The Ball recipe call for cider and sugar OR water and more sugar. The NCHFP call for vinegar and sugar and cider.

Are any/all of these necessary?

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Cooking apples in a little cider (or water, but cider tastes better :-) and sugar to taste with a few spices is all I ever do. I might add some lemon juice (just to brighten the flavors) but that's it. I don't see any reason to put vinegar in apple butter. Sounds yucky actually.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 10:14PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

It's a taste preference issue primarily. Personally we much prefer the taste of the vinegar recipes like the one at NCHFP than any of the ones without it that we have tried. Otherwise it is like eating cinnamon flavored applesauce. It also gives it a much longer shelf and fridge life.

Cider, sure,, it makes a big difference IMO. But just plain water? No now that sounds yucky to me.


    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 10:36PM
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I always use cider vinegar in my Apple Butter. For many years I made it without cider vinegar and thought it was okay.

Then I met the little old lady that use to beat me every year at the county fair in the plum jelly category. She also got blue ribbons for her fruit butters/spread (not sure the category back then). I tasted hers and knew hers was so much better than my families recipes.

Her recipe was 50 or so years old and she gave it to me in I am carrying on her recipe some 34 years later.

Apples. Half Water and Half Cider Vinegar to barely cover half the apples in the pot.

Cook till soft...sieve pulp thru mill to get out any seeds you missed. Put pulp back into pot. There may be some juice left in pot but check it for any pits or strain them out before returning pot to stove.

Add a fair amount of sugar and cook till thickened to your desired consistency. ( I prefer an applesauce thickness so it won't be too thick when refrigerated.


Add more sugar and more Cider Vinegar as needed for taste. Add Cinnamon and cook some more. Ladle into jars. Water Bath them for 10 mins.

I use the same tech for plums but now days I add other spices like fresh grated ginger and fresh nutmeg. Or I will leave out cinnamon and just make it with chopped ginger and lemon zest.

I will never make fruit butter without cider vinegar again. That old lady taught me well.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 3:11AM
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Thanks all. We do prefer our apple butter without cinnamon or other spices and with minimal sugar. I add very little water - just enough that the apples don't stick. I may try adding cider this year.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 11:50AM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

The vinegar can also be helpful is you're using windfall apples as they're lower-acid. Any bruised apples will have a higher pH.

I think it also depends on the variety of apple you're using for apple butter. I can see that vinegar would add a pleasant counterpoint, especially with a variety that's sweeter and/or bland.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 1:14PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

prefer our apple butter without cinnamon or other spices and with minimal sugar. I add very little water

That is what applesauce is - apples, a little water, no spices and minimal sugar. So how does your apple butter differ from plain applesauce?


    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 2:17PM
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The difference for me is in the cooking. Apple butter is basically reduced (by several hours of cooking) applesauce. Thick and brown, with an intense apple flavor.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 3:07PM
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I was ripe for a new idea (three fruit trees harvested, two to go) so I tried this tek last night with some Enterprise apples (a Macintosh type). I used only one-third cider vinegar in the initial cooking water, and I'm glad I reduced it because the flavor got a little sharp. The biggest benefit for me was that the vinegar helps get more color from the apples. I prepped the same apples in plain water two days ago and the pulp came out of the mill pinkish blonde. With vinegar in the water, I got a deep pink applesauce that quickly darkened a few shades when I started cooking it down.

Our apples are never sprayed, so I like to keep skins in the picture for color and nutrients, and the vinegar enhances this effect and produces a very brightly flavored butter.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 8:28AM
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I make my apple butter without any added sugar. I sometimes add a little water or apple cider. I have never added vinegar or lemon juice. I have also never canned it before. Can I can it without adding sugar? I cannot imagine adding sugar (or fake sugar) because when I cook it down, it is incredible sweet already. I would be ok with adding vinegar or lemon juice if it is necessary. So what do you recommend?

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 3:17PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Just shows how taste buds vary. :) I find AB with no sugar added at all to be very sharp tasting, not at all sweet, even when using Gala apples. I would definitely taste it well before filling the jars and keep in mind that the flavor will fade over time on the shelf.

But yes you can skip the sugar if you wish but since sugar provides so much of the water binding (thickening) then, just as with low or no sugar jams, you will get much more separation in the jars and a more runny butter.

You only need the lemon juice or vinegar if you are using ground picks/windfall apples.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 4:38PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

Basically it will be a cooked-down spiced applesauce rather than an apple butter. Without the sugar the usual pectin bonds won't form.

I'm not sure what is meant by fake sugar but it isn't necessary for safety and neither is additional acid, so if that's the way you prefer, go for it.

However, I'd recommend the processing time for applesauce, not the one for apple butter.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 5:30PM
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Thanks for the responses! When I said fake sugar, I meant the artificial sugar substitutes that are included in some recipes.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 6:06PM
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Is the processing time the same for pints and half-pints?

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 9:23PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Yes if no specific time is given for half pints in the recipe instructions then they need to be processed for the pint time.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 10:12PM
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I tried the vinegar, with great skepticism. Amazed how it brightens the apple flavour without any taste of vinegar itself.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 9:06AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Yea! Another vinegar-works-in-apple-butter convert! :)


    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 10:39AM
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Thanks, Dave - it was your recommendation encouraged me to try it - adding gradually and tasting. It works! No going back, now :)

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 4:01PM
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Here's my view:

Applesauce is cooked apples usually without sugar or spices though sometimes a little cinnamon is added and a smattering of sugar if the apples are very tart. It is always slightly "grainy" or textured and not cooked for very long. It is not usually very dark as it stays the color of cooked apples - light honey colored.

Apple Butter is a mixture of apple varieties and always includes spices usually cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg. It is cooked for hours to concentrate and break down the cells of the apples until it is like butter and reduced by half. It is very dark like ? cooked pumpkin, ? light brown sugar, ? maple syrup?

For my award winning apple butter I cook 5 varieties of apples with last year's unsweetened applesauce made with sweet apples, some apple cider vinegar (about 1 cup to a gallon), water just to soften before using the Squeezo, and the spices I mentioned above. I do not add sugar to the jars I can for unsweetened apple butter and add both white and brown sugar for the sweetened apple butter jars. It cooks in a huge roaster for 20 hours. I then put it in batches through the blender set on liquify. I bring it back to boil in small batches in preserving pans (with a screen over it to catch the lava eruptions) and can it in half-pint and pint jars. BWB 10.

I believe the best applesauce or apple butter contains at least 3 varieties of apples. I am fortunate to have a lady farmer friend in the mountains with several hundred apple trees and 17 varieties. Each year I go and ask her what combo to use for what I am making this season (applesauce, apple butter, fresh apple pie and tarts, canned apple pie filling, apple pie jam, and dried apples). The bushels of apples smell absolutely wonderful all the way home (5 hours) and stays fragrant in the car for a week!


    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 5:17PM
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I tried a very old receipe this year, that turned out very well. For every four quarts of cooked apples, it calls for 1/4 cup of cider vinegar, two quarts of sugar, cinnamon, cloves and allspice to taste. ( Lots of cinnamon) .Then It goes into a 300 degree oven
( I used a huge roasting pan).
Stir occasionally.To test, put a small sample on a saucer and let it cool. If it mounds up on a spoon it is ready to put in jars. This took about 5 hours, but it beats having to simmer and worry about scorching, and the house smelled wonderful. I used pint jars. The recipe was for open kettle, but I gave them ten minutes in the water bath.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 12:56PM
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I love using the oven method.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 2:04PM
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