Introduction to Jam Making (Part 3) – Apple Butter

Though not technically jam, apple butter uses the same skills we’ve been using in our jam making. Plus, it makes a delicious and versatile preserve and uses up unloved fruit. It’s too nice not to share! We eat it as jam on bread, or on porridge or pancakes, or even with cheese. So, so nice.

A couple of notes up front:

1. You don’t get as much out of the fruit as you do with jam so you end up making smaller batches. That is ok, though, because…

2. Apple butter doesn’t keep as long as jam because its sugar content ins lower. Using 1kg of fruit gave me 3 jars, and we’ll eat those within six weeks.

Small batches made regularly is the key to a year round supply of apple butter!

Apple butter takes a lot longer to make than jam – because you’re cooking it down further. I tend to cook it mostly on low heat, which means I don’t have to stir very often and can actually do other things while it cooks. The batch in the video took about 2.5 hours of cooking time in the end, but only required me every 15 minutes or so to stir. I consider that ‘low effort’ – plenty of time to rest in between, and not very taxing for my brain!


  • 1kg apples (any – eaters, cookers, windfall). 
  • 300g sugar
  • a squeeze of lemon juice (about one lemon’s worth)
  • 1 glass of water
  • spices: I use cinnamon, all spice, salt, and chilli flakes, but whatever tastes ‘christmassy’ to you is really nice. I’ve experimented with ‘jerk’ and ‘cajun’ spices, too.
  • 3 sterilised jam jar with metal lids

Please note that you can easily adjust the amounts by adding in more apples and more sugar etc. – just keep the proportions roughly the same.

To begin making apple butter, core your apples. There is no need to skin them, though if you don’t have a stick blender and don’t like the texture of skins then you could peel them, too. Some people don’t bother to core their apples either – again, it’s a texture thing. I don’t like the texture left behind by that as much, so I core mine. As you can see in the videos my apples are definitely past their best!

Add your apple chunks to the pot (no need to chop them finely) and add your sugar, water, and lemon juice. The water is added in so that your apples don’t burn in this early stage. Cook on high heat until the mixture is bubbling away, and stir frequently – don’t let it burn. Move to low heat and keep cooking. 

Once the mixture is soft and stars to look mushy it’s time to add your spices. Keep cooking on low, and keep stirring intermittently – on my ‘low’ setting I need to stir every 15 minutes or so.

Keep cooking. And cooking. And cooking. On low, my batch in the video took about 2.5 hours of cooking time in total. You can speed this up by cooking it on higher heat but you’ll have to keep stirring – it will want to burn. 

Once your mixture is starting to go dark brown and thick and gloopy you’re done, and it’s time to fill your jars. You can cook it for longer, too, if you prefer your apple butter to be thicker. You’re definitely looking for something thicker than jam – and thicker than apple sauce, too.

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