Apple Butter

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes about

    4 cups

Appears in

Flavor comes over time, whether you’re talking about tree-ripened fruit or recipes that call for slow cooking. This rich apple butter is cooked for hours, as the apples darken and the sugars caramelize (don’t worry—much of the cooking time is unattended). Eventually the apples become translucent, then turn auburn, then condense into a thick, jammy spread. Apple butter is delicious eaten straight from the pot, spooned onto crêpes, or spread onto bread for jam sandwiches. Pulling the cinnamon, cloves, and allspice from the pot after the first hour keeps their flavors subtly in the background.


  • 4 pounds apples
  • 1 orange
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole allspice berries
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 3 cups apple juice
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar


  1. Peel, quarter, and core the apples. Cut each quarter into thirds, then slice each third into pieces about as thick as your thumb.
  2. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the orange in wide strips. Break the cinnamon sticks into smaller pieces. Gather the orange peel, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves into a circle of cheesecloth and tie it with a piece of kitchen twine. If you don’t have cheesecloth, a scrap of porous white fabric will do.
  3. Place the cut apples, spice bag, apple juice, and brown sugar in a 5- to 7-quart heavy-bottomed pot. Cover, place over high heat, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 2 hours.
  4. After 1 hour, remove the spice bag, squeezing any juice from the bag back into the pot.
  5. After 2 hours, some of the apple pieces should still be intact, while others will have broken down. The mixture will be fragrant, bubbling, and developing a rich color. Reduce the flame to low and cook, uncovered, for 1½ hours more. During the last 30 minutes, stir the apple butter occasionally to prevent scorching. At the end of the cooking time, the apple butter should be thick and jammy, a dark reddish-brown in color, and deeply aromatic.
  6. Depending on the apples you use, you may need to add water in the final hour of cooking. If the pot looks dry, add water ¼ cup at a time, just enough to help break the apples down.
  7. The apple butter may be slightly on the sweet side when eaten warm from the pot, but as it cools, its flavors come into their own. The apple butter will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.