The Minimalist Baker knocked it out of the park with this recipe! I love that this recipe is sweetened naturally using dates and only requires one pot to make. I actually ended up throwing all the ingredients into a slow cooker for a few hours instead of making it on the stovetop.
6 medium honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into bite-size pieces (sweet apples are best // for tart apple butter, use Granny Smith // organic when possible // for more texture and fiber, leave the skin on — we peeled half)
2-3 pitted medjool dates
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger (or sub 1 tsp fresh ginger)
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (for preserving / keeping fresh longer / tartness)
To a large pot or Dutch oven, add chopped apples (peeling optional), pitted dates, cinnamon, ginger, water, and lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Stir.
Cover and cook over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes, or until the apples and dates become so tender that they’re easy to mash. Once the mixture reaches this point, turn off the heat so you can mash or blend.
If you peeled your apples, you should be able to use the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher to mash into a loose sauce. If your apples were unpeeled, you’ll need to use an immersion blender, food processor, or high-speed blender to pulverize the skins and turn the mixture into applesauce.
Once you have applesauce, it’s time to turn it into apple butter by cooking in the same pot over medium-low heat for ~1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours, stirring every 8-10 minutes, until it thickens and caramelizes. NOTE: At the beginning of simmering, you’ll need to cover your pot partially with a tilted lid to avoid splattering while still allowing moisture to escape. As the liquid evaporates, you can uncover to allow steam to fully escape, which helps the mixture caramelize and thicken.
You’ll know your apple butter is done when it’s rich and golden brown in color, is sweet to the taste, and is reduced by ~1/3 to 1/2 of its original volume. It will also start sticking to the bottom of the pan near the end, which is a good sign. The longer it cooks, the more intensely caramelized and concentrated it will become (a.k.a., thicker and more flavorful).
Enjoy fresh, or store cooled leftovers in the refrigerator up to 1-2 months, or in the freezer up to 6 months. Can be enjoyed cold or reheated in the microwave or on the stovetop over low heat until hot (add more water as needed if dry). Apple butter is delicious on toast, pumpkin bread, oatmeal, pancakes, and waffles and in baked goods, smoothies, and more.