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Slow Cooker Bourbon Apple Butter

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Make the house smell like fall and get a jump start on holiday gift baskets with this slow cooker bourbon apple butter recipe!

apple butter in jar

Have you had apple butter, darlings? If you’re unfamiliar, apple butter is like a thicker, smoother applesauce with lots of flavor. It’s made in almost the same way as applesauce, but cooked much longer. Apple butter is perfect for toast, pancakes, ice cream, sandwiches, biscuits, etc. This slow cooker bourbon apple butter has become one of my favorite fall “jams” to make.

What goes into apple butter? Is apple butter dairy free?

Apple butter is dairy free! In fact, apple butter is totally vegan. The reason it’s called “butter” is due to the thicker texture. It’s not quite as thick as butter, but it’s thicker than sauce. Think of it as a loose jam consistency.

apple butter on spoon to show consistency

As far as ingredients, your primary ingredient in any apple butter recipe is fresh apples. Then you add some sugar, spices, and in this case a little bourbon for flavor.

Is there a specific kind of apple I should be using?

Not really. Personally, I think a mix of apples works best. This is my skewed perspective because I like to make apple butter with apples from apple picking. But you can use whatever you find at the store. Any apple that works well for baking will do well here. Although, I would recommend not using all tart apples for this recipe.

If you use all tart apples, you’ll want to increase the amount of sugar. Thankfully, the apple butter making process allows opportunities to taste as you go. It’s very easy to adjust to fit your preferences!

Can I make this recipe on the stove or in my pressure cooker instead of a slow cooker?

I do include stove top apple butter instructions in the recipe. The slow cooker is great for “set and forget” convenience. You may also use a pressure cooker for part of the process, but I don’t know how much time saving you’ll really see.

spoon resting on jar with apple butter

If trying to make Instant Pot apple butter, you can cook the apples to a soft consistency with about 5 minutes of high pressure. Then you’ll need to allow enough cooking time with the lid off for evaporation of the liquid. For this to happen, you’ll either need to stand and stir pretty constantly while using the “saute” function, or use the slow cooker function with the lid off for a few hours. I love my IP, but I tend to use one of the methods outlined below so I can use the IP for other things.

Can I make apple butter without sugar?

You can’t make apple butter without a sweetener. If you do, you’re making a well spiced apple sauce. You’ll need the sweetener to get that “apple butter” consistency and flavor. BUT, I have some good news. You can use sugar substitutes successfully!

I have used coconut sugar as a 1:1 substitute for the brown sugar with beautiful results. You may use 1/2 cup of molasses instead of the sugar. If using a sugar substitute like monkfruit or stevia, I would start with 1/3 or 1/2 cup and then add as needed. In my experience, these sugar substitutes are far sweeter than actual sugar.

Can I omit the bourbon?

Absolutely! The alcohol does cook out completely, so this is a family friendly recipe. If you’d like to omit the bourbon completely, please do. Apple cider makes an excellent, equally flavorful addition. A flavored liquid will add depth to your apple butter. If you would rather use just water, cut down to 1/3 cup since you want all of it to evaporate anyway.

How do I store apple butter?

You may refrigerate apple butter for a month or so, it lasts some time. It freezes very well for several months, and you can also water bath can it. I like to have a few small homemade jars on hand for easy gift baskets, so I water bath can.

Be sure your jars have been properly sanitized by boiling, running through a dishwasher with the heated dry setting, or baking in a 300 F degree oven for 20 minutes. Fill hot jars with hot apple butter, add the lids and bands, then submerge in boiling water on a rack for 10 minutes to seal (for half pint jars). Allow to cool sitting on a clean dish towel for 24 hours, and check each jar for a proper seal. Refrigerate any that haven’t sealed for immediate use. Store sealed jars in a dark, cool place for a year.

I hope you enjoy this bourbon apple butter recipe, darlings!

apple butter in jar

Bourbon Apple Butter

Yield: 8 cups

Make the house smell like fall and get a jump start on holiday gift baskets with this slow cooker bourbon apple butter recipe!

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds apples
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup bourbon

Instructions

  1. Wash, peel, and dice the apples. Place into your slow cooker with the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine.
  2. Set the slow cooker on low 6-8 hours or high 4-6 hours. Stir periodically if you can.
  3. Once the apples are soft, use an immersion blender, food mill, food processor, or blender to puree.
  4. Return the apples to the slow cooker and cook an additional 2 hours on high, uncovered, stirring periodically. The butter is ready once it has thickened enough not to create a large ring of liquid when a small amount is placed on a plate.
  5. Adjust seasoning to taste if needed.
  6. Once you've reached this point, transfer your apple butter to a heat proof container.
  7. Apple butter can be stored in the refrigerator a month, frozen for about 6 months, and stored after canning up to a year.

Stove top apple butter instructions:

  1. Wash, peel, and dice your apples. Place into a large stock pot. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.
  2. Cook over medium low heat about 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the apples are soft.
  3. Use an immersion blender, food mill, food processor, or blender (work in batches!) to puree.
  4. Return the apples to the pot and cook an additional 20 minutes or so over medium heat, stirring often. This will help with liquid evaporation. Once a small dollop of apple butter placed on a plate doesn't have a ring of liquid form around it, the butter is ready.
  5. Test the apple butter and adjust seasoning if needed.
  6. Transfer your apple butter to a heat proof container and store in the refrigerator or freezer. You may also follow the instructions below to water bath can.

How to Can Apple Butter

  1. Wash and sanitize jars, lids, and bands.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Make sure there is a rack at the bottom to keep jars elevated.
  3. Fill the sanitized jars with hot apple butter to 1/2" of the rim. Cover with lids and bands.
  4. Place the jars in the boiling water and boil for 10 minutes.
  5. Use tongs or a jar lifter to carefully remove the jars from the boiling water. Place them on a clean dish towel to cool. Leave undisturbed for 12-24 hours. You'll hear "pops" as the lids seal.
  6. If after the resting time there are unsealed jars, refrigerate for immediate consumption. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Refrigerate once opened.

Did this recipe inspire you?

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Christina

Sunday 26th of September 2021

Could you substitute brandy for the bourbon?

Martha Nichols

Sunday 1st of November 2020

I love this recipe! My apple trees did very well this year so I've been canning like crazy. This is probably the best apple butter I've ever tasted. Thank you!

Mary (The Goodie Godmother)

Tuesday 17th of November 2020

I'm so glad to hear this, Martha! Enjoy the apple butter!

LisaLouWhoo!

Friday 11th of September 2020

I’m on my second batch of this stuff today. I had never made apple butter before, but a couple weeks ago, I saw a relative had pinned a recipe for Apple Butter Cookies. It sounded good, meeting both my sweet craving AND my natural cooking/baking response to the autumn in the Northern Wisconsin air, but, alas, I had no apple butter. A couple days prior, a client had given me a few tree-picked apples not necessarily great for other culinary applications, so down the apple butter rabbit hole I went.

I made the first batch as directed here, except that I had some nectarines that needed using, so I threw those in since I wasn’t sure I had enough apples. I don’t think they affected the end result much, and if they did, it definitely wasn’t in a negative way. I gifted some of that first batch (which yielded about 3 pints) and slathered what I kept on toasted English muffins, added it to barbecue sauce, made an apple butter mayo that was RIDIC on ham sandwiches, and whipped up some apple butter blondies. After all that research and hands-on experimentation, there are no apple butter cookies. Hahahaha.

Now, for Round 2, I used Granny Smith and Honey Crisp apples (unfortunately not local, but that’ll come in Round 3 for holiday gift-giving). For shots & giggles, I added some Cherry Liqueur from the Great Lakes Distillery in Milwaukee and divvied up the sweet stuff, using 1/4 c. light brown sugar, 1/4 c. dark, and 1/4 c. local raw honey. Finally, I splashed in about 1/2 t. vanilla. I imagine that extra liquid will mean longer cook-down time.

I eagerly await the results. :)

I am imagining SO many other preparation variations and myriad ways to use apple butter in other recipes now. Thank you, Goodie Godmother!!

Danette

Wednesday 16th of October 2019

Have you ever tried this recipe with pears?

Mary (The Goodie Godmother)

Thursday 17th of October 2019

I haven't, but I bet it would be delicious! Depending on the ripeness and juiciness of your pears, your cooking time may vary slightly.

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