Our First Apple Butter Making The Traditional Way

September 28, 2022

 The inaugural Hill Apple Butter Making tradition filled our weekend with joy, friends, and an abundance of the tastiest apple butter spread! 

Starting our family's own apple butter making tradition has been a dream for years. I've been talking about; imagining about it; and searching for a copper kettle for quite some time. Then last fall I found both the copper kettle and the long stir stick on Facebook Marketplace of all places. The absolute excitement of such a find cannot quite be put into words. 

Finding the kettle in September last year made it a bit much to try to plan apple butter making for 2021. So we set our sights on 2022. It's been a couple of months worth of planning - picking the date; determining the recipe (or there about); and planning out logistics. I feel like we blinked and the date arrived.

The week leading up to the event, we built a fire pit on our yard and picked apples from a friend's property. She graciously let us pick as many as we could, and we had quite the bounty - 240 pounds worth of apples to be exact. Then we collected the rest of the ingredients and cleaned the kettle and the stirrer. 

Our Friday evening was spent peeling, coring, and slicing apples with our friends, who also happen to be our neighbors, and my mom. Greer got to stay up later than her siblings to run the classic apple peeler. She told us the next morning her arms were so tired from all the work! The adults prepped apples until 11:30 before calling it a night. Our morning call time would be 5:00, and pushing the time further just didn't sound a-peeling (corny pun intended). Next year, we'll enlist more help and get more classic peelers to speed up the process. And for those who might be starting this tradition, store your prepped apples in a cooler(s) lined with butcher paper - it worked out great! 

Like I mentioned, our start time on Saturday was 5:00 AM. Pete along with our neighbor were troopers, getting the fire started, the kettle on , and the cider poured in. I joined the gang right around 6, while the darkness still enveloped the yard, and the work was by flashlight. There's something exciting about getting started before the sun is up. The chill in the morning air was perfectly fall-feeling, and the coffee being sipped was warming from the inside out. 

Our day revolved around stirring, peeling/coring/slicing the rest of our apples, good food, and fellowship. It was so much fun being able to spend time with our people - where everyone pitched in one way or another and felt equally as excited about the endeavor as we did. Because it takes about 12 hours from start to finish, we opted for a chili and cornbread potluck to share lunch. Of course dessert was involved. And by the close of making apple butter, my mom made homemade buttermilk biscuits for us to scoop up the leftover apple butter in the kettle post canning it. 

It was exhausting, but all joy. And I'm so excited to keep this tradition going year after year. I hope my children fall in love with it as much as I have and they pass it down to their own children who pass it down to theirs. Because our new tradition is a nod to my grandparents making apple butter when I was a child. And I love the idea of a tradition so engrained it's looked forward to year after year.


**we will tweak this some next year: to get a thinner apple butter, but the taste for this batch is scrumptious! 

  • What You'll Need
    • 5 bushels of apples (ours were smaller apples and we got around 15 gallons of actual apple after all the peeling and coring)
    • 25 lbs of granulated sugar
    • 4 lbs of brown sugar
    • 2 gallons of apple cider
    • 12 TBSP pure cinnamon oil/extract
    • 2 caps of ground cloves
    • Water, as needed
  • What You'll Do
    • Start by adding in the cider and letting it come to a boil. 
    • Then add all of your peeled/cored/sliced apples. Begin stirring from this point forward. 
      • You will want to add all of the apples at this point. Because we added apples later in the morning once finished with what was remaining from the night before, our apple butter has some chunks of apple in it. 
    • Once the apples have mushed up, add the granulated sugar. Keep stirring, remember you never stop!
    • Over the course of the day we added the brown sugar all at once, and intermittently added the cinnamon oil and ground cloves. We taste tested as we went so that we could arrive at the exact flavor we wanted. 
    • Around the 12 hour mark, you can remove the heat from under the kettle (still stir) and begin canning. We sanitized our jars beforehand. And add a pot to the heat by the kettle to sterilize the lids right before canning.