Spiced Apple Butter + Giveaway

finished apple butter

Since I was very young, I’ve been something of a collector. I figured that if having one of something was good, then having three or four was even better. As a kid, this meant that I had more pens and pencils in my school bag than necessary and felt most comfortable when I had a back-up security blanket.

In my adulthood, this propensity towards duplication has most actively manifested itself in the kitchen. I have at least two dozen wooden spoons and spatulas (when just a handful would really do), three vintage waffle irons (because you never know when one might break) and five slow cookers.

slow cooker

There’s no really good defense for the wooden implements or the waffle irons, but I do have a rationale for the slow cookers. My slow cooker needs often vary and so having different shapes, sizes and eras to choose from give me options.

Dips go in the mini-cooker. When I make overnight oatmeal, the 2 1/2 quart pot is best. If I’m doing a batch of blueberry butter and want really low, slow heat, nothing works better than my vintage, 4 quart, avocado green cooker. I also have kept a basic 6 quart cooker in the rotation for a while for stocks and soups, though I must confess, it has never been my favorite.

slicing apple

Then there’s slow cooker number five. It joined the line-up recently and rocketed to the top of my slow cooker hit parade. It’s the Hamilton Beach Set ‘n Forget model, with a lid that can be locked into a place and a thermometer probe that you can use to test internal temperatures without lifting the lid and releasing the heat. It allows you to set the cook time and temperature (when the time is up, it shifts to a keep warm setting).

This time of year, my slow cookers are in regular rotation for the production of apple and pear butters. I typically go with my vintage cooker, because I know that I can trust it not to burn (older slow cookers have lower set temperatures than the newer models). However, because of its capacity, it ends up yielding just a couple of pints. As you know, most of the time I like a small batch just a little more than the next girl. During the holiday season that changes and  I appreciate the option of larger yields for gift giving.

clamps

I realize now that I’ve avoided the newer cookers and their higher temperatures because I’ve never worked with one that had an auto shut-off before. I tend to let my fruit butters cook overnight. That was too much time for my brute force, either-on-or-off cooker. But having the option to set it to cook for 5 or 6 hours and then shift to warm has changed everything. I know this technology has been around for a while (my mom had a slow cooker when I was little that did something along these lines), but I’d never before experienced it. I am in love.

My fruit butter yields are higher because the new Hamilton Beach machine has a larger capacity and I’m not running the risk of burning the butter because it shuts off when I ask. I am a happy canner.

mid-slice

Before we get to the apple butter recipe I’ve made three times in the last month in machine, I have to tell you one more reason why I really like it. It’s that “Stay or Go” feature. This slow cooker has a lid fitted with a silicone seal that can be locked into place. That makes it an able traveler, which is terrific for a regular potluck-attender like me.

I used it to transport and serve mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving (sadly, they were the worst mashed potatoes I’ve ever made; both lumpy and gummy at the same time. But the quality of the potatoes wasn’t the cooker’s fault) and it will be pressed into travel service again soon.

stay or go

The formal recipe I’ve been using for this slow cooker apple butter is after the jump, but here’s the narrative version. You begin by filling your slow cooker to the top with sliced apples (I got about eight pounds into my cooker, but there’s some natural variation here). You add a little water (maybe 1/2 a cup) to help things along and then you let the cooker for for four to six hours on low, until you can mash the apples into sauce.

Then you puree the heck out of the applesauce, until the skins disappear. It works best in my Vitamix, but I’ve also achieved this same effect with an immersion blender and persistence. Then you return the puree to the slow cooker (it will only fill it 2/3 of the way up at this point) and cook on low for another six or so hours with the lid slightly askew for venting purposes, until the sauce has reduced into butter. Stir in sugar, spices, and lemon zest/juice for balance. That’s it! Easy and makes such good holiday presents!

Finally, the giveaway. Hamilton Beach has generously given me eight (yes, that’s eight) of these Set ‘n Forget Slow Cookers to give away to my readers. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share your favorite slow cooker use.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm on Saturday, December 22, 2012. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday.
  3. Giveaway open US residents only.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.
Disclosure: Hamilton Beach gave me one Set ‘n Forget Slow Cooker for review and photography purposes and they’re providing eight additional units for this giveaway. They did not pay for inclusion on the blog and my opinions remain entirely my own. 

Spiced Apple Butter + Giveaway

Yield: approximately 3 pints

Ingredients

  • 7-8 pounds apples (any varieties you like)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • zest and juice of one lemon

Instructions

  1. Slice apples and heap them into a six quart slow cooker.
  2. Add 1/2 cup water and set to low.
  3. Cook until apples are tender and can be easily pressed into sauce. On low, this will take 4-6 hours. On high, it should only take 2-3 hours.
  4. Puree softened apples into a smooth puree (it shouldn't be necessary to peel).
  5. Return to puree to slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours with the lid set slightly ajar so that it can vent.
  6. Add 1/2 cup sugar, spices and lemon zest/juice. Taste and add more spices and sugar, if necessary.
  7. Funnel hot apple butter into prepared jars.
  8. Apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.
  9. When time is up, remove jars from canner and let cool on a folded kitchen towel.

Notes

My batch yielded just over 3 pints, but with all things that depend on reduction, yields will vary. I can see this batch ranging from 2 to 4 pints, depending on the water content of the apples and the length that you cook them.

This recipe can be canned in pints, half pints, quarter pints or any other small jar designed for boiling water bath canning. All jars pints or smaller are processed for 15 minutes. Should you want to can it in quarts, increase processing time to 20 minutes.

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1,094 Responses to Spiced Apple Butter + Giveaway

  1. 801
    Leslie O'Clair says:

    I’ve never used a slow cooker but I’m dynig to start now that I’ve read about this!

  2. 802
    dorothy mora says:

    i love my slow cooker- but as several have mentioned- there is sometimes the burn factor. I am a midwife and don’t always leave when the whistle blows :-) and have had a few disasters. I will make just about anything in my slow cooker- especially entrees.Gather the ingredients, put them in, turn it on and VOILA! I often wonder why they are not advertised for use during the summer when they are equally as stupendous and don’t generate heat.

  3. 803
    Lisa Rogers says:

    I have a small urban farm and market in Denver. We use our slow cooker to keep soups and stews warm on work days for our staff lunches. Thick bean stews, like chile are favs of ours. But we also use it on cold days and through our winter farm markets to heat hot apple cider to keep us and our customers warm and toasty!

  4. 804
    LynDee says:

    My favorite use of my crockpot is throwing in a huge chuck roast on Monday and having Stroganoff on Tuesday, Stew on Thursday and beef enchiladas on Saturday!

  5. 805
    Katie says:

    I especially like to make dinners in my slow cooker. A favorite is chicken breasts with 1/2 a bottle of Italian salad dressing over the top. That’s it!

  6. 806
    Virginia says:

    My favorite thing to make in a crockpot has got to be apple butter. The smell in the house is scrumptious. I don’t have a real good story about crackpots. I’ve been crockpottless for about 6 months now. I still have the housing but the crock broke in my hands when washing it one day. Just fell apart in my hands. The postage is just to much to replace it and can’t buy another one for a while.

  7. 807
    Susan Kearns says:

    How to choose just one…I guess spaghetti sauce is one of my favorites. My poor crock pot is on it’s last legs. It’s chipped and stained—and I’m always a little embarrassed to bring it to potlucks. I new one would be grand!

  8. 808
    Barbara says:

    I love making apple and pear butter in my slow cooker! This year I made tomato sauce too! Really nice not to have to worry as much about scorching.

  9. 809
    froma sommers says:

    WOW! Hope I win.
    My favorite slow cooker recipe is:
    4 large cans of pears, drained (I am basically a lazy person. The thought of peeling and coring the pears….ugh! Cans are wonderful.)
    3 cinnamon sticks
    1 bottle of red wine of your choice, I use merlot

    Throw it all together in slow cooker for 4-5 hours on low. Then on warm until ready to serve.

    I usually serve warm with vanilla ice cream

  10. 810
    Emily380 says:

    Dinner and drinks (like chai tea) are my favorite ways to use my slow cooker. It really makes it so you can leave the house while your food is cooking. Brilliant invention. I’ll have to try that apple butter recipe, though… YUM!

  11. 811
    MK says:

    I’ve always wanted to cook with a slow cooker but do not have one. Apple butter would definitely be high on my to do list if I had one though!

  12. 812
    Michelle says:

    I, too, own a number of slow cookers and I LOVE them. My favorite way to use it is for overnight oatmeal. I can just never seem to get the oatmeal right when I cook it on the stove.

  13. 813
    nancy says:

    My mom would make Chinese rice porridge with the slow cooker using leftover turkey bones after Thanksgiving. It would be perfect because she is very forgetful, she’s burnt many pots through my lifetime.

  14. 814
    Yvonne says:

    I use my slow cookers for so many different things – including Apple Butter. My favorite these holiday days is the trio that my daughter gave me for Christmas last year. It’s perfect for cooking and keeping three different foods warm for get togethers. I make carnitas in the big crock, the trio will hold the beans, 2nd meat (chicken breast for the healthier crew) and rice all perfecty!

  15. 815
    danielle says:

    Oh, I am so bummed out! I plugged in my slow cooker last week and it wouldn’t turn on! So this would be really cool. While the most awesome thing I’ve ever made in a slow cooker is probably pulled pork, I love making black bean soup, cause it’s the easiest/cheapest thing in the world. Turn it on, throw in canned or dry beans, depending on what you got and how much time you have, quarter an onion, bay leaves, throw in whatever stock or water you’ve got, a ham hock and/or vegetables if you’ve got ‘em. Later add cumin, salt & red pepper flake. It’s brilliantly fast.

  16. 816
    Meghan W says:

    I love making black bean soup in my slow cooker. Perfect consistency every time!

  17. 817
    Noelle Holt says:

    I love my slow cooker for making bone broth and soups!

  18. 818
    Kay says:

    I love to use mine to cook skinless chicken thighs with garlic and smoked salt while I am at work. When I get home, I pull the bones out, drain off the broth (save to use for soup), shred the meat and add barbeque sauce. The family loves BBQ chicken sandwich night!

  19. 819
    MaryB says:

    My favorite thing to make in my slow cooker is pork carnitas. They are sooo yummy!

  20. 820
    Melinda says:

    I have three slow cookers: one for small batches of apple/pear butter, one for sauerkraut (the ceramic part is the perfect size…come to think of it I haven’t actually used the “cooker” part of that one), and the last for large batches of butter, homemade mac and cheese, and slow cooking chicken and stock. But I can always make room for one more :)

  21. 821
    Tom Warnock says:

    I am without a slow cooker at this time. I have numerous Dutch Ovens but no slow cookers!!!

  22. 822
    Leslie says:

    I have 2 Hamilton Beach slow cookers!

  23. 823
    Autumn says:

    I don’t have a slow cooker, but after reading this post and all of these comments, I am missing out!

  24. 824
    Gerald says:

    Soup. Slow cookers are great for the office soup lunch day get-together.

    • 824.1
      Cyndee Socci says:

      Especially around holiday hectic times, before I start the day’s many tasks, I start SOMETHING in the slow cooker – black bean soup, something hearty, with a quick look in the veggie drawer of the fridge. In goes the half an onion, etc., along with the actual recipe. It’s awesome to then have it done when your pooped after a day of errands, baking, whatever!

  25. 825
    Emily says:

    What can’t you make in a crockpot? During the colder months I love to make soups and stews, during the warmer months I like to make baed potatoes and whole chickens.

  26. 826
    Lacey says:

    I love making pulled pork in a slow cooker!

  27. 827
    Cyndee Socci says:

    Start something in the morning before you start the rest of your day, and voila! Dinner is there at the finish line when you’re the most pooped out!

  28. 828
    Adrienne says:

    My favorite thing in the slow cooker is apple butter because of how wonderfully it smells up the house.

  29. 829
    maria says:

    I don’t have one. Proud of my cooking skills, I turned down a slow cooker graduation present (asking for a waffle iron instead, reasoning that anything a slow-cooker can cook, I can do on the stove but waffles _require_ waffle irons). Upon reaching my thesis year of grad school I realized my mistake: my peers had homemade soups and stews for lunch that their slow-cookers slaved away on. I had crumby sandwiches on homemade bread that didn’t turn out. As a VISTA volunteer, I arrive home late craving soup and stew (warm, filling, and frugal) … and wish for that slow cooker.

  30. 830
    Scottie says:

    I want a slow cooker so I can make chana masala!

  31. 831
    Joe Skopek says:

    Soups, especially beef vegetable soup.

  32. 832
    Michelle Cox says:

    Any kind of apple butter in the crockpot is a hit! I also like using it to keep my mashed potatoes warm on holidays. But my favorite slow cooker use is hot apple cider!! I add cinnamon sticks, cloves, spices and it stays hot and smells so good! I keep it on when kids are home for holidays or snow days and they just ladle it in mugs all day!!

  33. 833
    dsophia says:

    My hands down favorite use is for pulled pork! I love to slow cook a pork shoulder in apple cider vinegar and brown sugar for hours!

  34. 834
    Thad says:

    Chili, soup, and hot beverages are some of my favorite uses. Then again, we rarely make *exactly* the same dish twice in it.

  35. 835
    Susan says:

    My best slow cooker recipe is for a vegetarian tofu chili. My friend made this for when we moved into our new home. We had some young men helping with the heavy stuff, and she fed us all the chili. The fellows scarfed it down without knowing it was vegetarian. Several of them proclaimed that they hated tofu, so it couldn’t be that! My other favorite use is for spiced cider for the holidays–heat it up, keep it warm, just keeps getting spicier. Yum!

  36. 836
    Kate says:

    I love making apple butter in the crock pot, but the clamping lid is wonderful. I’ve always used the cuisinart to puree the apple butter with great success. Thanks!

  37. 837
    Lynne says:

    Oh, it’s hard to say my absolute favorite way to use my slow cooker…but one of the ways I frequently use it is to “roast” a whole chicken. I have done so overnight so I have chicken to use for other recipes, or I time it to have fresh, hot chicken for dinner. It’s usually so moist and tender!

  38. 838
    Kelly says:

    I used my ancient slow cooker to make apple butter this fall. The smell that filled the house throughout the day was divine! I’d love to try another batch in a new cooker! :o)

  39. 839
    valerie says:

    my slow cooker didn’t make the move from california with me. i’ve been hunting a new, great replacement..

  40. 840
    beckyinvt says:

    I love making soups in slow cookers. My favorite is a ham bone soup with beans and tomatoes and kale and a little polenta to thicken it up!

  41. 841
    Oriyana says:

    My favorite slow cooker meal is beef stew. When I was younger, my mom would make all sorts of slow cooker meals but my favorite was always beef stew! I knew then that I would have a slow cooker in my household when I had a family of my own. Needless to say, I still don’t have one :( I have shopped around, looking for the perfect one but have always left the store disappointed. The Set n’ Forget slow cooker you talked about sounds wonderful! I would love to win one, so my dreams of slow cooking can finally come true!

  42. 842
    Lauren says:

    definitely chili! or pot roast! mmm.

  43. 843
    Jessi says:

    I made apple butter in a slow cooker once – my apartment smelled so wonderful! But I think the best use is making gluwhein for a party. It keeps the wine serving temperature with no effort.

  44. 844
    Jenny says:

    I make EVERYTHING in my vintage (love the lower temp) slow cooker: lasagna (with tomatoes I canned), pork and potato stew (with tomatillo salsa I canned), pulled pork, tomato butter (from your recipe), beef shanks – even a whole chicken! I would love to have a larger cooker though!

  45. 845
    Lorenda says:

    Pulled pork is awesome from my slow cooker!

  46. 846
    Sandra says:

    Taco Soup is our favorite. Everyone who “drops in” loves it too. And…most of all it is so easy

  47. 847
    Bobbi says:

    I love to make stews and casseroles type things. I love mine, but it is kind of old. It would be great to win a new one! Thank you for the chance!

  48. 848
    saniel says:

    i made the most delicious apple sauce with organic apples it was fantastic. thanks

  49. 849
    Kari says:

    My hubby and I work opposite shifts, I get up first and leave early. I put dinner in the crockpot before leaving and know that he will have a home cooked dinner ready for him to take with him before he needs to leave. Plus I get to come home after a busy long day and commute to a hot meal ready for me also.

  50. 850
    Mary Beth says:

    I actually almost always use mine for batches of apple and pear butter. In fact, I made a batch just the other day! My farmer friend gives me large batches of damaged fruit and this is the best way I know how to deal with it.

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