We've made several batches of applesauce in the last month or so. Southern California tends to lag behind the rest of the country as far as seasons go so we've just ended apple season. There's nothing like the sweet smell of cooked apples to bring on the cold weather. I made a batch of apple butter during this last applesaucing day and the spicy smell of apple butter is gracing the house with its fragrance. It is definitely a sure-fire way to put me (Christy) in the holiday mood!
It really is a rewarding experience to put jars on the shelf to eat later. Currently we have 17 quarts of cranberry applesauce and 11 quarts of plain apple sauce. And from earlier in the fall, we have 12 quarts of apricot halves, 6 quarts of sliced pears, 8 quarts of nectarines (not sure how these will turn out. We wanted to do peaches but it was not to be...), and 5 quarts of peach sauce. Oh, and quite a bit of jam, some blackberry sauce, peach butter, and now apple butter. :D
My process for apple butter is quite simple. I take about 6 quarts of applesauce and add it to our large slow cooker. I add 2-3 cups of sugar and a lot of spices including cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, and allspice. I just dump and taste. The flavors to concentrate as the butter cooks down so it's good to under-season just a tad at first. You can always add more later.
When cooking in the slow cooker, make sure to keep the lid off so the liquid will evaporate. If I'm around the house, I put it on high and stir frequently. If I will be gone or sleeping, I put it on low. The whole cooking process took me about 8 hours but it may take more or less time depending on what heat you cook it at. Alternately, you could cook it on the stove top on low for 4-6 hours, stirring frequently.
It should cook down significantly and be spreadable by the time you're done. My 6 quarts cooked down to about 6 pints. I used half-pint jars for canning so I got about 12 small jars of butter, perfect for gifting!
Expect enticing aroma's to fill the house! I try to bake fresh bread while the apple butter is cooking so that I can partake in one of the best treats: fresh apple butter on warm homemade bread.
Apple butter is great for keeping in the fridge or for canning. If you want to can the jars, visit one of these sources for more detailed canning instructions.
P.S. The bread you see is a secret I've been keeping for far too long. I'm way overdue for a post on my new experiments with sourdough bread ;)