It's apple butter time! Are you a fan? If not, this may be the recipe to win you over- the maple syrup compliments the apples and spices in such a perfect way! Traditional apple butter recipes call for lots of sugar - about 1 cup to 1 pound of apples - making it too sweet in my opinion since there's sugar in the apples, too. You can, of course, make a version with no added sweetener at all - but that's basically like spreading applesauce on your toast (again - my opinion, ha!).
I think this is such a great balance - natural sweetness from the maple syrup and not a lot of it (just over 1 c. to 8 lbs. of apples), but enough to render a true apple butter that's SO good on toast and with peanut butter. I also love having apple butter on hand to make these easy bars for snacking and light desserts.
Oh, and if that's not enough to get you on the apple butter train, how about the fact that you throw all the ingredients in a slow cooker before you go to bed and wake up to an almost-cooked apple butter?
There's hardly any hands-on time and in the morning (of course you can start it in the morning and finish it at night if that works better) all that's needed is a bit more reduction time and a quick whir with an immersion blender.
After whirring up to smooth it all into a glorious goodness, you turn the cooker to high for a bit and thicken to a good toast-spreading consistency. You can go by how it falls off a spoon slowly or add a spoonful to a small cup and see if it keeps it's 'shape' a bit like the lower left photo. And of course tasting is pretty much required at this point!
This apple butter can be frozen or canned - it's really easy to can and is a good recipe to start with if you're just learning to can. You can see the steps to water-bath canning in this post that covers what isn't mentioned in the recipe below.
I'm loving this lower-sugar apple butter so much and I hope you do, too!
Want to make this, but don't have a slow cooker?
Place the ingredients in a large 6-quart stockpot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered for about 1-2 hours or until desired consistency, stirring every 10-15 minutes to make sure it doesn't burn.
Continue with the recipe as written (blending, canning or freezing).
Slow Cooker Maple Sweetened Apple Butter
For a 5-6 quart slow cooker (halve recipe for smaller cookers):
- 8 pounds apples peeled, cored and quartered
- 1 ¼ cups pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice optional, but my favorite*
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves and/or nutmeg optional*
- Prepare the apples, placing them right in the bowl of a 5-6 quart slow cooker as you peel, core, and quarter them.
- Add all the remaining ingredients and stir well.
- Cook on HIGH, covered, 1 hour.
- Reduce to LOW, stir again, and cook, covered, for 8-10 hours (overnight works great).
- Uncover, stir, and cook on HIGH for 1 hour to reduce a bit, leaving the lid off or halfway on cooker.
- Use an immersion blender right in cooker, blending until smooth. Continue cooking uncovered on HIGH until desired thickness (about 30m-1hr longer).**
- If canning, prepare canning jars, lids and canner while reducing. If freezing, let apple butter cool before adding to freezer-safe small jars.
- To can: ladle into warm 1/2-pint jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace, wiping rims & attaching lids. Place in water bath canner, bring back to a boil, lower heat to maintain a low boil and process for 10 minutes.
- Turn off burner, remove lid and jars let sit in canner for 5 minutes. Transfer to a towel-lined surface and let cool at least 12 hours without touching them. Check seals, label and store in a cool place.