Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Apple Butter: A Sweet Taste of Home

This must be nostalgia week.  Another one of my childhood memories was triggered when I received a jar of homemade apple butter as a gift.  It tasted a lot like the apple butter my dear departed mother used to make in vast quantities every summer during "canning season."  Just like Mom's, this apple butter had a little extra cinnamon.


So I went looking for Mom's recipe for apple butter in an old recipe box I'd inherited.  And here is what I found in her perfect Palmer Method penmanship:


10 c. apple pulp

10 c. sugar

1 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. cloves

2 Tbsp. cinnamon


That was it.  She'd made it so often, I guess she thought it unnecessary to write down the steps. 


The first step, of course, was to pick the apples -- lots and LOTS of apples.  We had an apple tree, but every year we also visited our neighbor, Mrs. Townswick, who had a small orchard. Mom purchased bushel baskets full of apples from her. We'd make apple pies, apple crisp, applesauce, apple jelly and apple butter.


Then the apples had to be washed, cut, cored, and cooked. We'd place cooked apples into a large freestanding metal  colander and smash them against the side of the colander with a big wooden pestle-like thing.  Pulp would ooze through the holes.   Here's a link to a vintage one I found on Etsy:


Then the pulp was combined with all the other ingredients in a huge kettle and boiled, stirring constantly, until the mixture was thick enough to spread.  It was then poured into sterilized canning jars, sealed, and processed for at least 5 minutes in a boiling water bath (with the jars placed in a wire rack that fit into yet another huge pot designed for boiling water bath canning). 


If you'd like some great apple recipes, including a recipe that makes only 3 pints of apple butter, check out Apples, Apples Everywhere by Lee Jackson from Images Unlimited Publishing, P.O. Box 305, Maryville, Missouri 64468.   I got a personally autographed copy one year at the annual Applejack Festival in Nebraska City, Nebraska.


I try to remind myself during these sweltering 100-degree days, that I can escape to air conditioned comfort at home and at work.  My Mom had no air conditioning when she canned in our little steam-filled farmhouse kitchen, with jars lined up on the dining room table waiting for the "pop" that assured her they were safely sealed.  In addition to apple butter and apple jelly, Mom also made plum butter, plum jelly, and chokecherry jelly.  We canned peaches, pears, cherries, and home grown green beans, peas, corn, beets, tomatoes and carrots.  (I remember measuring each green bean before cutting for 4-H canning competitions – tedious!)  Then there were pickles – sweet pickles, dill pickles, beet pickles, and watermelon pickles.  Our cellar shelves were full of pretty jars that lasted us through most of the following year.   



LeAnn aka pasqueflower



  1. Yay!
    Another yummy recipe to try this summer!
    Thanks for sharing!


  2. I have to say that I have never tried apple butter. What did you eat with the apple butter?

  3. Shelley-
    I ate apple butter with fresh-baked homemade bread (yum), or on plain old toast. It's similar to jam. Now I also eat it on bagels or English muffins. I'd never heard of those when I was a kid.

  4. Shelley, apple butter is pretty good on plain old saltines, too. :-)

  5. Your childhood sounds like mine. I don't do much canning any more and yet a part of me misses it. Yes, it was hard work, but it also brought a sense of accomplishment to see all those lovely jars lined up on the cupboard!

  6. I've actually made apple butter in the past and it's yummy! Thanks for sharing this-brings back warm memories for me, also.

  7. Oh, wow! All of that sounds so amazing! I love apple butter.