Adventures with Apple Butter: Canning at Home

Posted by Becky Brackett on Thu, Oct 04, 2012
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Well, I’ve taken my first class, time to put that skill to good use! It was hard to set aside a few hours in my busy schedule for such a project, but somehow I made it work. (Sensing the sarcasm here?)

I ended up choosing apple butter as my first attempt since apples are the most seasonable item right now and finding fresh, crisp apples is pretty easy. I bought about 4 lbs of Granny Smith apples so I adjusted the Velvet Apple Butter recipe slightly from the one we used in class since it was for 6 lbs. I also didn’t want to buy the cinnamon sticks (they’re pricey and I’m in early retirement, remember?) so I used ground cinnamon instead.

Luckily for me, my mom has a large canning pot with the tray that sits in it, and some extra Ball jars. The rest of what you need are mostly household items: saucepan for the apples and sterilizing rings, tongs, cutting board, knives, etc. Also lucky for me, my roommates (ahem, my parents) live in a brand new house and I get to reap the benefits of their fancy kitchen!

I started prepping my apples and since I didn’t work on the apple prep in class, I wasn’t sure if they had to be peeled. Assuming they did, I peeled them all and let me tell you, the peeler I used was not nearly as efficient as the one at the BCAE. Guess I know what I’ll be buying the next time I wander into Crate & Barrel. Anyway, I peeled all my apples, keeping the cores, which I placed into cheesecloth (you can buy this at any grocery store) along with all the spices.

apples in the pot
ingredients in the saucepan

The apples went into a large saucepan of water and sugar, along with the cheesecloth. It looked like there wasn’t enough liquid so I added about 2 more cups of water. I brought all this to a boil and let it cook. For a long time. You want the apples to break down and thicken, essentially into a more buttery substance. Who would have thought?! It was taking forever, and I knew it was because I had too much liquid so early on I removed some and added 2 more apples to help thicken it. Not ideal, but I didn’t want to ruin the whole batch.


apples in the saucepan // Ball jars in the canning bath

Eventually it evolved to an applesauce consistency, and it continued to thicken from there, though I’m not sure it made it quite to the ‘butter’ stage. Finally, I took out the cheesecloth and orange slices and I pureed the sauce until it was as smooth as possible. I put the butter in each sterilized ball jar, wiped the rim, and topped them off with the lid and ring.

Adding the jars safely to the canning bath was tough because my canning tray didn’t fit with the half-pint jars I was using, but I found a spot for them all. They hung out for about 12-14 minutes, and then I took them out. It was a little tricky, requiring some awkward handling of tongs and slotted spoons, but I got them all out safely. As I was pulling out the second jar, I heard my first ‘pop!’ – music to a canner’s ears. It worked! By the time I turned off the boil on the canning bath, all my jars had popped and I was a happy canner.

ready for lids

ready for lids!

The apple butter tasted yummy from the pan and now it’s successfully in cans, but it wasn’t a completely smooth ride though. Here’s a few things I’ll take away for next time:

  • I didn’t have the tongs specific to canning and I wish I did; with regular tongs it’s difficult to get a good grip on the jars when taking them in and out of the bath.
  • Follow the recipe! I added too much water and had to remove some, when I should have just followed the original recipe.
  • Having the correct tray in the canning bath that fit the size of ball jars would have been ideal, and safer. 
  • Patience! Apple butter takes awhile to break down and thicken. Make sure you have the time and patience to wait. You’ll be happy with the result!

finished product

the finished product!

Topics: BCAE cooking classes, Katie Petrillo, Autumn in a Jar, Molly Loveday, Boston cooking