The Covered Dish - Apple Butter / Apple Butter Spread-Dip

October 26, 2023

I was a bit embarrassed this week to learn that our son, Phillip, is very fond of apple butter. I had it in our home when he was a ‘wee’ guy, but had not brought it back over the years. At that time, he didn’t care for it at all. When it comes to jams, jellies, chutneys and the like he will only use grape jelly! So, I was quite surprised over this revelation.

Last weekend he and Paige, his gal, went to apple butter days over in Mount Vernon, Missouri. This festival has been going on for years, with over 400 vendors present for their 2–3-day event. Evidently; he thought he was going to see multiple apple butter stands, but only found around four vendors selling it. (There was a contest for it also.) I only learned about his likes for apple butter following the trip. I think I was embarrassed because I could have been making him apple butter all along, had I known.

Like my maternal grandmother, Lucy Rightmire Richardson, I’ve made apple butter along with pumpkin butter. The catch was we never wrote anything down!

One thing I like to do when I write a recipe for someone ‘specifically’ is to quiz them with their expectations in mind. So, before writing this recipe I lassoed Phillip, and made sure to make it to his specifics. What were they? Very smooth, no lumps, not too much cinnamon, and the ‘body’ was not to be runny.

One of the things I try to do when setting recipes is to make them simple to understand, with extra comments explaining what I did ‘specifically’. The other is to figure out ways to get the project done with ease and as little mess as possible.

Believe me I did not want to write this recipe requiring you to cook the skins, seeds, core and pulp all together and then run it through a foley mill!!! The foley mills are not easy to clean, they take time, can make a real mess, and lastly only more seasoned cooks have one, or know what they are! FYI some folks also call them a potato ricer or a sieve.

In the olden’ days apple butter was cooked in a big cast iron kettle over a fire, outside. Some families still follow this tradition, feeling it’s the only way to make quality apple butter. I chose the crock-pot method because it’s more apt to lure you into making it.

I’m wondering if I’ll have enough from this batch for a few Christmas gifts? If not, I’ll just have to make more next weekend. Include this with a loaf of homemade bread, and it just doesn’t get much better. Another thing I like to make for holiday gifts is a cranberry orange sauce. Perhaps I should share that one next week so you too can get a jump on your holiday prep. Hey, I’ve already got all the ingredients for peanut clusters and a couple of other holiday yummies. I pick them up when they’re on sale, which is definitely the ticket.

Ladies, another thing I like to do is pick up ‘cheap’ baskets at a thrift store, bring them home and revitalize them with a good bath. Then go to a Dollar tree, or someplace known for inexpensive towels and purchase a few. Line the baskets with the towels and fill with the bread and a couple of homemade things like the apple butter etc. ‘Years’ ago, mushrooms in grocery stores came in wooden, oval shaped boxes and those were used. This was before we had thrift stores and flea markets!

WOW, I had no intention of this column getting so lengthy! Best close things up and get the apple butter canned. Happy Fall, The Covered Dish.

Apple Butter Spread/Dip

8 ounces of softened cream cheese

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 cup apple butter

1 teaspoon of Vanilla (Debbie note, use maple?)

Mix together until smooth, will last up to a week in the refrigerator. Serve with sliced apples, bagels, pretzels even graham crackers. This recipe was everywhere on line, I don’t take credit for it.

Apple Butter

Yield: 5.5, Half Pints jars

Needs: Crockpot, medium size saucepan with lid, one crockpot liner, submersible blender.

6-7 lbs. of apples.

(I used 15 large galas, in large oval crockpot)

Skins from 10 apples, could use more-

1 cup apple cider

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Later add 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar or dark if desired.

You will be peeling and quartering your apples into a lined crockpot. Once the peels from the first 10 apples have been removed place them in a saucepan with 1 cup apple cider. You can actually use the cores, seeds & skins to pull the pectin out in this process. Bring to a boil, and cook covered for one hour, over low heat.

I like this process because it keeps the ‘sticky’ mess a bit more curtailed.

Finish peeling and quartering all the apples. Sprinkle on the spices, salt, lemon juice and granulated white sugar. Cover and cook on low for about an hour while the apple peels & cider continue to cook.

Remove the peels from the saucepan, draining & retrieving as much pectin/juice as possible. Now add the pectin/juice from the skins & cider to the crockpot. Leave on low and cook overnight, or about 8 hours.

Lift lid on crockpot after 8 hours and add the packed brown sugar. Using a submersible blender blend the apple mixture smooth. Sit the lid at a tilt and keep cooking the mixture until it reaches the desired thickness. Keep in mind it will thicken as it cools too.

(I overslept and mine ended up cooking about ten hours with the lid on. The color was magnificent and it blended very nicely. However; I still let it cook with the lid off for a while, a couple of hours was all that was necessary.)

Feel free to add more sugar, depending upon your tastebuds and the type of apples being used. Our son, Phillip, requested I not over-do the cinnamon, so you can add more. Sometimes I also like to add fall flavorings to my butters. I.E., maple flavoring, a light rum, etc. Also throwing in a few cinnamon red hots can be fun. The longer it is cooked the darker it becomes.

Apple butter can be combined in between fall cake layers with a bit of icing or cream cheese. Baste the butter on a pork chop. Most of us have recipes with cream cheese fillings in them, consider taking it up a step with the addition of the butter. I’m thinking of a couple of bar cookie recipes where this would work, and I’m wondering about putting it into my apple kuchen!

After school snacks, tail gate parties, youth groups, here’s an extra for you.