Cardamom spiced apple butter is delicious, easy to make and can be used in a variety of recipes from apple tarts, pies, apple bread or just spread onto toast for a little spiced apple treat.
I'm all about making quick & easy sauces, spreads and spice blends that can be used in a variety of ways to keep in my fridge or pantry. Just like I'm not a fan of a single-use kitchen gadgets, and I like recipes that I can use in may ways to amp up the flavour of different dishes.
This easy apple butter recipe is sugar-free, has just 3 ingredients and while simple to make, it does take a bit of time to cook the apples down to a thick butter. Apple butter is often made with brown sugar, but I make it without added sweeteners. Apples have a natural sweetness that really shines here. If you try this apple butter and really feel like you want it a bit sweeter, try adding a few dates in with the apples.
I live in Ontario (Canada) where there are about 230 apple growers and close to 20 different varieties of apples. When I was a kid we used to go apple picking every fall in the Niagara region, just one of 5 apple growing regions in Ontario. The apple harvest starts around mid-September, and hanging around for a few hours outdoors in the cool autumn weather picking apples is fun! I haven't been apple picking in a while so I usually buy whichever apples are available at my local farmer's market. I've made this recipe with all kinds of apples, and there were even a few times when I used more than one variety of apple because it's what I had on hand!
What is apple butter?
Apple butter does not contain any butter. Let's get that out of the way first. It's like spiced applesauce but thicker because it's cooked down more than applesauce.
I've used a variety of different apples to make apple butter depending on how sweet or tart I want the end product to be. It's best to use an apple that breaks down quickly, but if all you have are firmer apples a stick blender can help smooth things out. Here are a few apple varieties that would be good for apple butter:
Cortland This red apple has a mild, sweet taste and is good for eating fresh or for pies and sauces.
Golden Delicious Firm, crisp and juicy, these apples have a golden yellow skin and are good for eating fresh, baking and applesauce.
Russet Russet apples are sweet & tangy. They are good for eating fresh, pie filling and applesauce.
For a full list of Ontario apples with flavour profiles visit Ontario Apple Growers.
This is a personal choice and this recipe can be made with or without the peels. There are a few things to keep in mind when you are deciding if you want to peel your apples or not:
- Apples, like a lot of fruit, are often sprayed for pests a few times during the growing season. Little critters are attracted to the sweetness of fruit! Any spray would sit on the outside of the apple on the peel. This could be true for organic or conventionally grown apples, but the type of pest control would be different in each case.
- Apples are often coated in a food-safe wax for freshness. If you've even noticed that apples in the grocery store are shiny and apples sold direct from a farm look a little more dull, wax could be the reason.
- If you opt to leave peels on, give your apples a good wash before using them.
This method of making apple butter is quite forgiving, just the kind of recipe that I like! I love cooking and baking, but I'm of the mindset that cooking can and should be easy. If you have a few apples that are a little bruised or maybe have been in the fridge a tad too long? Use them to make apple butter! If you decide the leave the peels as part of this recipe your apple butter may take on the colour of the peels, as in the first photo above.
Cardamom Spiced Apple Butter
- Small saucepan with lid
- Apple corer
- Measuring spoons
- Measuring cup
- Small knife
- Wooden or silicone cooking spoon
- Hand blender
- 4 fresh apples (cored, peeled)
- ¼ cup water
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom (freshly ground)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
- Wash, peel* and core apples.
- Roughly chop apples into pieces. Chopping the apples makes them break down faster.
- Add chopped apples, cardamom and water into a small sauce pan on high and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and let simmer with the lid on for 10 minutes. This will allow the apples to cook and soften.
- After 10 minutes, uncover and stir. Using the back of the spoon mash the apples as you stir to help them break down.
- Keep stirring and mashing with the back of your spoon until all of the apples have broken down.
- Remove the pan from the heat and puree the mixture with a hand blender until smooth.
- Put the pan back on a medium heat and continue to simmer uncovered, stirring often to ensure the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan. In this step you are cooking out all of the water and condensing the apples.
- Continue cooking for about 15 minutes on medium. As you stir you'll see that the mixture thickens, deepens in colour and leaves a a path in the pot instead of running together.
- Cook on medium for 5 more minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.
- Spoon the apple butter into a glass jar and let cool.
- Cover and keep in the fridge for up to one week.
- You can make this apple butter with unpeeled apples. Keep in mind that apples are often highly sprayed, and coated in wax for freshness. If you are using the peels be sure to give your apples a good wash.
- The pectin in and under the peels helps to thicken the apple butter.
- Cooking time will vary depending on the type of apples you are using.