Old Fashioned Apple Butter Recipe

It’s apple season y’all! Smooth, rich and cozy- this old fashioned apple butter recipe is a classic! 

half pint jar of apple butter with red gingham jar topper

If you enjoy this old fashioned apple butter recipe, you may love this Apple Butter Bundt cake too! Spiced with a kick of apple and a smooth brown sugar glaze, it will easily become a fall favorite.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

apples in a bowl next to an old community cookbook with apple butter recipe

If you are a lover of old fashioned, comforting recipes this is sure to be a favorite you come back to every fall season. It brings back memories of the good ‘ole days and is a passed down family recipe. Plus it is just plain delicious on so many things and you can use it up in many ways- baking, on ice cream, on most bread items and even in coffee to make a seasonal latte! Savory or sweet pairings, it is a delicious addition to many other homemade dishes.

In a pinch to process and preserve a large harvest of apples? Whether from the grocery store, local apple orchards or your own farm, this is a great way to preserve large amounts of those crisp apples, with minimal hands on time or work. Most of the time spent is for canning or freezing this wonderful treat.  

This can be made on the stovetop or in the slow cooker (this is the easiest way!), giving you freedom while it cooks down. Make a huge batch of apple butter while you go on about your day and then it is ready to preserve the next day!

Serving Size

This is a large batch old fashioned apple butter recipe that makes roughly 20 half pints. Feel free to half or even quarter the recipe for smaller batches. 

Tools

Canning jars
Flats and Rings
Vinegar (for cleaning jar rims)
Water bath canner or large stockpot with rack
Jar Lifter
Ladle
Funnel
Apple peeler/corer/slicer OR knife and cutting board
Slow cooker, instant pot or stock pot for cooking apples

Ingredients

whole local apples stacked in a glass bowl

10 pounds of chopped apples OR 9-10 cups of applesauce
3 cups brown sugar: 
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon allspice
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1/4-1/2 cup water

How To Make This Old Fashioned Apple Butter Recipe

1. Prepare apples

In a large stockpot or slow cooker, add chopped apples with the peeling on or storebought/homemade applesauce. Try using a mix of apples for more flavor. Try some tart apples like granny smith mixed with some sweeter apples like honeycrisp or red delicious to make a flavorful finished product. The more variety of apples, the different flavors the apple butter will take on.

woman chopping apples on wood cutting board with toddler girl adding them to bowl

woman chopping apples on wood cutting board with toddler girl adding them to bowl

woman with green baby wrap adding chopped apples into large instant pot

2. Add spices, sugar and water (for fresh apples)

Add cinnamon, allspice, ground cloves and brown sugar. The amount of sugar is to taste and is personal preference. We like around 3 cups of sugar but you can use no sugar, less sugar, or even more sugar. Also, while I have not tried it, I would imagine that the sugar could be replaced for something like maple syrup or honey, however, you may need to cook it longer and the flavor will likely be a little different. If using chopped apples, you may need to add a bit of water to your pot to keep any apples from scorching. 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup should be just fine.

chopped apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg all piled into a large instant pot

3. Cook

For fresh apples, allow the apples to cook down for several hours on the stove or up to 24 hours in the slow cooker, stirring every few hours. The longer the cooking time, the more depth of flavor for this delicious apple butter! Once cooked down, use an immersion blender to blend all of the apples into a thick butter. 

For apple sauce, cook on low heat on stove top or in slow cooker until desired thickness. Again, the longer it cooks the better! Just be sure to cook it low and slow to avoid scorching or burning.

I prefer the slow cooking process to get the most flavor with the least amount of hands on time. While stirring is necessary for both, I like the low constant heat of the slow cooker and that I can walk away for bits of time without worrying too much about it. 

chopped apples, spices, brown sugar all cooked down in instant pot but still in chunks

chopped apples, spices, brown sugar all cooked down in instant pot and blended into apple butter

4. Preserve

To can, add hot apple butter to hot sterile jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Run a knife around the edge to pop any air bubbles. Wipe rims and add flat and ring, fingertip tight. Add to warm water bath canner. Bring canner to a boil and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Remove lid, turn off heat and allow the jars to remain in canner for 5 minutes. Lastly, remove jars and allow to sit for at least 12 hours. Ensure they have sealed and store at room temperature. 

If not canning, refrigerate and eat within a few weeks to a month. Apple butter freezes well for about a year. 

jars in waterbath canner with boiling water

apple butter in half pint jars with red gingham and red ticking jar toppers tied with jute twine

Substitutions and Variations

For this recipe, you can subsitute the apples for applesauce in a lb to cup ratio. You could also use other fruits such as pears, or do a mix completely of different (but similar in texture and flavor) fruits. The brown sugar could also be subbed for white sugar if needed, but the brown sugar lends more flavor here. Half white sugar, half brown sugar could be nice. 

Serve It With

Oh my, this is best on a fresh buttermilk biscuit served with a country breakfast of bacon or ham, fried eggs and big cup of black coffee! This is my favorite way to eat it. But we also use it for toast, waffles/pancakes and mixed into oatmeal and even mixed into coffee. It is perfect for a breakfast or brunch.

Try this on ice cream or adding it to desserts when baking. 

I think that apple butter sounds delicious to top on a cheese ball and eaten with crackers or homemade bread. I have not personally tried this but I will be soon! Even added to a snack board with meats, cheeses and crackers would be delicious. 

Storage

This can be stored in glass mason jars or airtight containers in the refrigerator for around a month. 

Store in glass mason jars or airtight containers in the freezer for around a year. Be sure to leave enough headspace if freezing in glass to allow the apple butter to expand when frozen. I usually fill my jars up about 3/4 of the way. 

This can be stored at room temperature if canned properly for around a year, sometimes more. 

Common Questions

Do you have to peel your apples for apple butter?

No, you do not. Or at least I do not. It cooks down enough that once the apple butter is blended, you cannot even tell that they were left in. I believe it helps to thicken the apple butter more and add extra nutrients from the skin. If you are worried, you can peel the apples. 

Can you freeze apple butter in glass jars?

Yes, I freeze many things in glass jars. The key to freezing in glass is allowing plenty of room for expansion. I only fill my jars 3/4 of the way full to allow for this so that they do not bust. This makes it easy to use. When ready to eat, allow to thaw in the refrigerator. 

How long will homemade apple butter last?

Homemade apple butter will last a few weeks to a month in the fridge, one year in the freezer and one year or longer if canned for shelf stability. 

How do I get my apple butter to thicken up?

​Apple butter will naturally thicken a bit as it cools. However, the more sugar that is added and a longer cook time will help it to thicken up even more. If you struggle to get it to thicken, once blended allow it to continue to cook uncovered to allow the moisture to cook out easier.

Why is my apple butter more like applesauce?

It likely needs cooked down longer. It really needs to cook down and carmelize to become that smooth and thick texture we all recognize. Several hours and up to 24 hours in the slow cooker makes for a stronger tasting, more carmelized and thicker apple butter. And while not technically true for all butters, in my personal experience apple butter has far more spice and is sweeter than applesauce. The additional sugar along with the spices helps to achieve this in the apple butter. 

redhead toddler girl reaching for a half pint jar of apple butter

If you try this recipe and love it, please come back and give it 5 stars! I sure would appreciate it!

Yield: 20 Half Pints

Old Fashioned Apple Butter Recipe

half pint jar of apple butter with a red gingham jar topper

It's apple season y'all! Smooth, rich and cozy- this old fashioned apple butter recipe is a classic! 

Ingredients

  • 10 pounds of chopped apples OR 9-10 cups of applesauce
  • 3 cups brown sugar: 
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water

Instructions

1. Prepare Apples

In a large stockpot or slow cooker, add chopped apples with the peeling on or storebought/homemade applesauce.

2. Add spices, sugar and water (for fresh apples)

Add cinnamon, allspice, ground cloves and brown sugar. If using chopped apples, you may need to add a bit of water to your pot to keep any apples from scorching. 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup should be just fine.

3. Cook

For fresh apples, allow the apples to cook down for several hours on the stove or up to 24 hours in the slow cooker, stirring every few hours. Once cooked down, use an immersion blender to blend all of the apples into a thick butter. 

For apple sauce, cook on low heat on stove top or in slow cooker until desired thickness.

4. Preserve

To can, add hot apple butter to hot sterile jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Run a knife around the edge to pop any air bubbles. Wipe rims and add flat and ring, fingertip tight. Add to warm water bath canner. Bring canner to a boil and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Remove lid, turn off heat and allow the jars to remain in canner for 5 minutes. Remove jars and allow to sit for at least 12 hours. Ensure they have sealed and store at room temperature. 

If not canning, refrigerate and eat within a few weeks to a month. Apple butter freezes well for about a year. 

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