Apple butter is a lush and tasty spreadable treat that is quite easy to make at home. It is essentially applesauce that has been seasoned and cooked slowly for a number of hours until it reaches a consistency similar to butter. While the process of making it is relatively straight-forward, the biggest challenge for first-time chefs is that the finished product looks runny. You can quickly correct this with a few minor alterations.
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Start with the Best Applesauce Available
Most recipes for making apple butter at home suggest using home-made applesauce if possible. Aside from the fact that homemade applesauce will likely taste better than the store-bought variety, homemade applesauce tends to be thicker and slightly chunkier than the commercial version. That thickness will lessen the eventual cooking time and help ensure the thickening of the butter takes place.
Use the Skin and Core
If you opt to make your own applesauce, use a recipe that allows you to use the entire apple. Use the skin and core of the apple in the first cooking process, then remove them before finishing the applesauce. The pectin that resides in the cores and skin encourage the applesauce to thicken and there is a lot of flavor in the apple peels.
Don't Cook the Applesauce Too Long
A common mistake when making homemade applesauce is to cook it until it has a consistency similar to the store-bought version. If you do that, you will end up with an applesauce that is runny and tasteless. Instead, cook the apples until they are soft, but still chunky. The apples will still have retained much of their taste, and the slight chunkiness makes it less likely your apple butter will contain too much moisture.
If you decide to use store-bought applesauce, the easiest way to correct the problem of a runny applesauce is to extend the cooking time for the apple butter recipe. While that should solve the problem, extra cooking time also makes it more likely you might burn the butter or cook it to the point where it has lost much of its apple taste.
There is always a danger that you thicken the apple butter too much. The easiest correction is to add additional applesauce to the mix and continue to cook the mix until it reaches the desired consistency.