Apple butter is a rich, sweet spread created by rendering apples (and a few key spices) down through long, slow cooking in a crockpot or over the stove until they lose much of their water and intensify in flavour. The name “apple butter” is a bit of a misnomer, as it doesn’t actually contain any real butter; the name comes from its thick, creamy, and spreadable texture. In the recipe below, the same result was achieved in a fraction of the time by using a pressure cooker, from several hours to just 90 minutes.
Apple butter is naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian; it can also be made vegan by using agave nectar instead of honey, and in fact if your apple varieties are sweet enough, you can skip the extra sweetener altogether to make it sugar-free as well. It’s as close to zero waste as I can get, as it uses everything but the apple cores, and you can even add those minus the seeds if you have the time and the will to fish them out of the mass pre-blending (but that smacks of way too much effort for me, so I’ll be happy to simply bin my cores and count myself lucky).
This fragrant spread is intensely apple-and spice-flavoured; I have used it (sparingly) as a filling for spice cakes. As for daily use, apple butter goes very well smeared on a morning bagel or toast, or try some swirled in your oatmeal. You won’t regret it.
Instant Pot Apple Butter
YIELD: about 2 cups apple butter (you can double this recipe if your pressure cooker is large enough)
PREP: 15 mins | PRESSURE COOK: 15 mins | COOK: 50-60 mins
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: Electric pressure cooker (6qt or larger), immersion blender, long-handled non-metal stirring utensil, spatter screen, oven mitt or protective glove, glass or metal lid that covers pressure cooker opening but does not seal (like a crockpot lid)
- 2kg assorted Apples (about 12 -15 depending on size); go for multiple varieties for different flavour profiles
- ½ cup/119mL water, apple juice, or apple cider
- ½ cup/170g honey, agave syrup, cane or corn syrup (optional; depends on the tartness of your apples)
- 1 tbsp/8g cinnamon
- ¼ tsp/0.5g cloves
- ⅛ tsp/0.3g nutmeg
- 1 tbsp/15mL pure vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp/30mL lemon juice
- Wash and remove cores from apples but do not peel (the peels help with thickening and giving a deeper colour); slice apples into even pieces (can use an apple slicer/corer for this).
- Add all ingredients into your 6qt or larger pressure cooker; close and lock lid and set vent to sealing.
- Pressure cook on high for 15 minutes and then quick release pressure.
- Remove lid and purée the cooked apples with immersion blender; blend until velvety-smooth.
- Deoending on the type of pressure cooker you are using Press the slow cooker-high or sauté-low button, and place a lid and/or splatter screen overtop; the intention is to start it bubbling and reducing without scorching the bottom.
- Stir the apple butter frequently; gently scrape the bottom of the pot frequently as well – do not allow it to burn on the bottom. It will take about 30-40 minutes to cook down; this will take longer if you have doubled the recipe or your apple varieties are waterier. Note: be very careful at this point; this mixture is extremely hot and will bubble up – use the splatter screen and/or oven gloves to protect your hands as you stir. If you are finding it burning to the bottom, reduce sauté to low or switch back and forth between the slow cooker function and sauté. Taste for seasoning/sweetness at this point.
- Continue to cook mixture down until a suitable density is reached; you should be able to carve a line that holds for 5-6 seconds through a spoonful of apple butter.
- Turn off pressure cooker and let mixture cool completely.
- Transfer the apple butter into jars; you can store in the fridge for up to a week, freeze it or can it using the water bath method.