The Poetry of Apple Butter: A Recipe

An apple sauce maker (left) is an old-timey thing you can probably find at an Amish hardware store or yard sale, or you can borrow from me,

This is actually not a recipe. Apple butter is not a science. It’s just something you make in the fall ‘after apple picking', to borrow a phrase from Robert Frost.

Oh, you could sit around and ponder your own mortality and write a timeless poem like Frost did, or you could just make apple butter. That’s what I do. Because poems are fine, but they don’t use up apples.

Apple butter-making takes a whole afternoon, but it makes the house smell better than a pie shop. Plus, thanks to the invention of slow cookers, you are not stuck in the kitchen the whole afternoon. So let’s get started, shall we?

You’ll need a big pot with a lid, an apple sauce maker (an old-timey thing you can probably find at an Amish hardware store or yard sale, or you can borrow from me), and a slow cooker or crock pot.


Apples (lots, like a dozen maybe? I lost count) Ground spices to taste:

3 Cinnamon sticks Cinnamon

Up to 1 Cup Maple Syrup (start with less, sweeten to taste) Allspice

¼ Cup Apple Cider Nutmeg

Directions: (Such as they are: remember this is not a science)

Wash and cut apples in quarters. No need to core or peel, thanks to your awesome old-timey apple sauce maker (we’ll get to that later). Place apples in the big pot, cover with water, add cinnamon sticks, and bring to a boil. Simmer on medium until apples are soft. This doesn’t take long (15 minutes or so?) and you’ll know the apples are ready when they’re all puffy.

Drain apples and remove cinnamon sticks. Transfer apples a few spoonfuls at a time to the apple sauce maker, which you have strategically set over a large bowl, and run them through the food mill. Scrape the bottom frequently to clean out the gunk that’s too big to go through. Put the gunk in the compost or better yet, feed to a pig. (Any pig will do.) Continue this process until all the apples have turned into sauce. You can stop there, if applesauce is your thing.

But to turn your unsweetened applesauce to delicious apple butter, transfer it to the slow cooker. Stir in maple syrup, apple cider, and ground spices. Set to high. Cover at first, then cook uncovered after it’s started to bubble (about 45 minutes or so). Taste to make sure you’ve put in enough syrup and spices; add a little more until it tastes just right. Continue slow-cooking on high, stirring only very occasionally, for about 3 more hours until the mixture thickens. Apple butter is meant to be a spread, so you want it thick. If three hours doesn’t do the trick, cook it a little longer. Remember, you’ve devoted a whole afternoon to this project.

When it’s thick enough and tasty enough for your standards, spoon the mixture into jars and let cool. Can for the winter (if you know how to do that) or just store in the modern contraption known as a refrigerator. Makes more than you can eat in one sitting.

Suggested serving: Take a dollop or two, spread on toast. Make a cup of tea. Get out your Complete Works of Robert Frost, and read “After Apple Picking.” Go ahead, ponder your own mortality. All the poets are doing it. Poetry offers a safe and secure way to ponder the mysteries of life. It's just words after all, but it sweetens the bitter doubt. Like apple butter.


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