Apple Butter is a spreadable apple preserve that is produced by very long slow cooking to reduce the liquid content.
This gives the Apple Butter a thick consistency, intensely concentrated apple flavours and a dark brown colour caused by caramelization of the fruit sugars.
Despite its name, there is absolutely no dairy produce in Apple Butter – in fact, the only thing Apple Butter has in common with regular butter is its spreadability.
But Apple Butter is actually more comparable to preserves or jam than it is butter.
However, while Apple Butter can be used in any instance where jam or preserves would be enjoyed, it is much more versatile than normal preserves or jam.
The long, slow cooking process of Apple Butter with reduction of the liquid means that a lot of apple goes into each jar!
Apple Butter is perfect whenever you want to add concentrated apple flavours to baked goods without all of the water that the fruit itself brings.
Apple Butter is both a key cooking ingredient and a dip for these delicious Apple Butter baked doughnuts.
Apple Butter also works when mixed into braising liquids, marinades, or glazes to bring sweetness and complexity to grilled and roasted meats.
In fact, whenever you want to add autumnal flavours, regardless of the season, Apple Butter will do the trick!
Apple Butter v. Apple Sauce
Apple Butter is very different from the more commonly known apple sauce.
In essence, Apple butter is a highly concentrated form of apple sauce produced by a much longer and slower cooking process of apples with apple juice to a point where the fruit sugar in the apples caramelizes turning the apple butter a deep brown. The concentration of fruit sugars gives Apple Butter a much longer shelf life as a preserve than apple sauce.
Apple sauce is usually served on its own or as a side dish for a variety of dishes. Apple butter has an enormous variety of uses as a condiment or spreads for pastries and pie fillings. It can also be used as a healthier alternative for oil, shortening, or butter. Some people also enjoy using it to marinate meat, or pairing it with cooked meat and cheeses.
History of Apple Butter
The roots of Apple Butter lie in the European Low Countries and Germany where it was developed by monks during the Middle Ages as a way to preserve the apples produced in monastery orchards. The craft spread so that most villages had their own Apple Butter producers.
The production of Apple Butter spread to America with early settlers and was a popular way of using apples in colonial America. The methods of making Apple Butter were improved and refined by the many practitioners in the USA.
The production of apple butter was often a family event, due to the large amount of labour necessary to produce apple butter in large quantities. Traditionally, Apple Butter was prepared in large copper kettles outside. Large paddles were used to stir the apples, and family members would take turns stirring.
Apple Butter continues to be a popular product in US and large scale commercial production continues.
In Europe, an Apple Butter is traditionally made which is closer to dense syrup, in the Netherlands (known as appelstroop, meaning apple syrup) and in Germany (known as Apfelkraut). In Jersey, in the Channel Islands, apple butter is known as black butter or lé nièr beurre.
Uses of Apple Butter
Apple Butter is a very versatile food product and is perfect whenever you want intense apple flavours – for spreading, as a dip, as an addition to porridge or yoghurt and in both feet and savoury baking and cooking.
Ways to use Apple Butter include:
• Spread on breads, muffins, hot buttered crumpets, scones etc.
• Cake filling eg. a Victoria Sandwich
• Pie fillings
• Swirled into yoghurt, porridge, rice pudding
• Served with roast pork and crackling
• As a marinade for pork, chicken and other meats
• Spread generously within a cheese toastie
• Top your pancakes and waffles with it
• Set out a bowl with a cheese plate
• Swirl it into cakes or cupcakes
• Brush it on chicken or pork during the last few cooking minutes
• Eaten directly from the jar on your fingertip