I’ve spent the past few weeks in rural Japan visiting family, and while the diet there is pretty unusual by US standards, fall is apple season and exotic varieties of fresh picked apples line the produce markets across the country. While taking a walk one day, I came across a farm stand that had piles of freshly picked produce at prices that made me wonder how these guys made a living.
There were bins full of pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and mandarins, but what really drew me in was a pile of apples that filled the air with a sweet aroma that smelled like a scratch and sniff sticker. I couldn’t read the sign and it’s not a variety of apple I’m familiar with, but the intense fragrance was intoxicating and I soon found myself walking home with a bag of apples.
On my way home, I found a store selling locally produced brown sugar and knew before I got home that I wanted to make apple butter. With just a few ingredients thrown into a pot, the reducing apples filled the house with an irresistible aroma. It took a lot of self-restraint to keep myself from eating this straight out of the pot with a spoon. Slathered on a crusty slice of toast it’s like eating an apple pie.
While you probably won’t find this particular variety at your local farm stand, Honey Crisps and Fuji apples work great because they have a strong apple flavor and are naturally sweet. They also tend to hold up better to cooking than apples such as Golden Delicious (which turn to mush when cooked).
The sweetness of your apples (and your personal preferences) will dictate how much sugar you need to add, so taste your apples before adding the sugar. You can always start out at the low end and add more sugar as the apples cook down if you don’t think they’re sweet enough.
I like making my apple butter a little chunky as it goes great on everything from latkes to pork chops to a crusty slice of toast, but if you like a creamy smooth apple, butter, just run the mixture through a food processor.
Chunky Apple Butter
Make apple butter from scratch. Slather it on toast or muffins, and you will swear it is apple pie on bread. Food blogger Marc Matsumoto guides you through this apple butter recipe with step-by-step pictures of the directions in a full post on the Fresh Tastes blog.
- 4 large apples
- 1/4-1/2 cup light brown sugar (to taste)
- 2 tablespoons white wine
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Peel, quarter, and then core the apples. Cut the cored wedges in half lengthwise, then slice the apples crosswise. It doesn't have to be exact since you'll be mashing them later anyway but they should be roughly the same size, so they cook evenly.
- Place the sliced apples in a large heavy bottomed pot with a lid, and then add the sugar, wine, and cinnamon. Cover with a lid and cook over low heat for 20 minutes to allow the apples to release their liquid.
- Remove the lid, turn up the heat to medium, and then continue to cook for about 10 minutes to burn off extra liquid. The apples are done when they are tender and there is almost no liquid remaining in the pot. Stir frequently and be careful not to burn them. Taste the apples at this point and add more sugar if they’re not sweet enough.
- When the apples are done, turn off the heat, and then add the butter. Use a potato masher to roughly mash up the apples along with the butter. I like my apple butter a little chunky, so I don't mash it very much but if you want it smooth, you could run it through a food processor instead.
- Allow the apple butter to cool, and then transfer it to an airtight container. It should keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, provided you use a clean spoon every time you scoop some out.
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.