It’s Not Your Grandma’s Apple Butter

The apple butter of my youth was thick and chunky. We would eat it on homemade bread—sometimes over top of butter. How’s that for velvety smooth? Still, when I decided to make my own apple butter, I wanted something different. I wanted the apples to shine instead of the spice profile.

Was there a way to savor that gooey goodness with just a hint of cinnamon?

Thank you, Google. I found a recipe for this beautiful, aesthetically pleasing Naked Apple Butter. The creamy color was very appealing. Yet…did I want to abandon tradition completely? I found this recipe, which looked a lot like Grandma’s (only less chunky). Was there a middle ground?

I decided to try to make one.

What I used:

8 lbs. of apples.I used our red delicious because of their sudden abundance. But they were in varying stages of ripe, so I had tart and sweet. 8 lbs. were all I could fit in my slow cooker. And it was tight.

1 tsp. of cinnamon
¾ tsp. of nutmeg
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
½ cup of apple juice.
Ok, so I used bourbon. Ever since I made this pie, I’ve loved apples with bourbon. Jeff and I do not drink the stuff, but we have a small stock amassed due to the kindness of friends who think we do. Apparently, whiskey is a great hostess gift. I keep it in the cabinet above my refrigerator. Beside the Yankee candle storage. I wonder if there is cross contamination. Anyway, this liquid is to help reduce the apples sticking to the side of the crock. And (in the case of the bourbon) add flavor.
3-4 fresh cayenne peppers (because I have so many from the garden right now).
1 tsp. salt
Juice of one lemon
Equipment: slow cooker, blender, apple corer, potato masher, canning supplies (if canning)
Wash apples. And use the corer to slice them up. No need to peel. I borrowed this idea from the Naked Apple Butter recipe. I liked the idea of the peel adding some fiber.
I love my apple corer.

 Combine sugars and spices and toss apples in the mixture to coat. Put apples in slow cooker and cook on high for four hours, stirring occasionally so the apples don’t stick. After four hours, add bourbon (or juice) and vanilla. Cook another hour on high.

At this point, the apples should be soft enough to mash with the potato masher. Break them down as good as you can. You have made apple sauce. Cool slightly and then blend the apples in your blender until silky smooth. This will chop up those skins so no one will even have to know they are in there. At this point, I added my cayenne peppers and pulverized them into the apple mixture.

Cook on low for an additional two hours, stirring occasionally. In the last hour, I added the salt, lemon juice and honey to taste. If the apple butter is too spicy for your taste (mine was at first), add honey in parts to counter the heat. I ended up using about a quarter cup of honey, but my apple butter still had a lot of heat when done. Which I love. But not everyone will.

Wha-la! Done.

If canning, follow these directions for a hot water bath. I processed for ten minutes.

My butter came out a beautiful, silky smooth, caramel color.

And taste? It’s not your grandma’s apple butter.



  1. DeanneMoore says

    Laura, you inspired me to get out last Saturday and harvest my basil. I made a couple of batches and I might get a few more before summer ends. We don’t get a lot of apples around here. It will be awhile before their ripe. I love apple butter and I agree that the apples need to shine if you are going to make the effort to put them up! I know you are making your family very happy 🙂

  2. Megan Willome says

    “Ok, so I used bourbon.”–I laughed out loud at that one. And this–“Apparently whiskey is a great hostess gift.”–I honestly thought, Insert West Virginia joke here.

  3. Maureen says

    I’m imagining your apple butter slathered on top of a bit of Trader Joe’s cookie butter on warm French bread. (Nostalgic: My mother used to make apple sauce all the time but never apple butter.) Yours looks so good!

  4. says

    I’ve never had apple butter on cookies, Maureen…mmmm, that sounds delicious. I will have to try that. I have sooo many apples to experiment with. I am going to have some fun!

  5. says

    I was so glad to not have to peel the apples, Jodi! It made it at least half the time. Of course, I’ve been known to enjoy the long way around. Ah, the benefits of the modern kitchen.

  6. Jody Ohlsen Collins says

    Laura, this sounds delish! I think the cayenne pepper is the ‘not your grandma’s apple butter’ part 🙂 Thanks for sharing this.

  7. says

    I don’t have the patience to wait around for the apples to cook that long. I usually make apple butter between halloween and thanksgiving and give some to my kids to take home- been making it since they were children. I do it on the stovetop and i add some grated orange peel and a splash of fresh orange juice to give it a little bit of fresh citrus taste. I never thought of using brown sugar- must try that one. I don’t peel mine either- just use a stick blender right in the pot. I use cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves for seasoning. no vanilla- that one i must try, also. Mine is probably more like your grandmother’s only mine never made it so I have no idea what a grandmother’s should taste like unless it’s mine- lol

  8. says

    This was a feast for my senses. Your descriptive words and wonderful photographs made my mouth water and smack! I haven’t had apple butter in a long time, but the memory came flooding back to my tongue and I could even smell the balance of apples, cinnamon, honey, and cayenne peppers.

  9. says

    Yum!!! We like things spicy here. Might have to try this, but even though I usually prefer just a paring knife to slice an apple for a snack, the corer would definitely be needed for 8 pounds. 🙂

    Any estimate on the quantity this recipe made? In pints, for example, if that’s what size jar you used?

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