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Sep 21, 2010 08:01 AM

Canning newbie - converting apple sauce to apple butter with pectin?

so some friends and I tried to make apple butter the other day... but we cored the apples before cooking them (and then put it through the food mill), and even though we cooked it for about 4 hours its still more apple sauce consistency. We didn't finish canning it, so I'm heating it up as I type to get it ready for pressure canning. Here's my question - can I add some pectin now to thicken it up? I wasn't planning on cooking it for a long time today - how long would it take for the pectin to do it's thing? And how much should I add? I have about 1 gallon of apple sauce.

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  1. I'm sorry, I am not answering your question, but I'm curious why you are pressure canning your apple butter. The apple butter I have made, and that my mother made when I was growing up, has always been water-bath canned, and that was what the recipes indicated (same with applesauce). They have enough sugar and acid to be canned in boiling water, apparently.

    1. Well, it won't be apple butter unless you cook it until it's deep brown. It'll still be apple sauce. The pectin will set it like a jam, which is not what I'd want for sure. If the color is right but it's too thin, you just need to cook some of the liquid out -- put it over slightly higher heat and stir constantly to prevent sticking until it's the consistency you want.

      WRT pressure canning -- I think that pressure canning is the way to go if you don't want to add vinegar to increase the acidity. That way you're ensuring food safety without making it too sour.

      7 Replies
      1. re: LauraGrace

        I just made apple butter this weekend. My recipe called for first boiling down apple cider (6 cups down to 3), then adding the apples. The cider turns syrupy and adds sweetness and color. You do have to spend a lot of time cooking and stirring until it gets dark enough. There's just no way around that. I also added some cinnamon and allspice. I also pressure canned it since there was no additional acid, but a lot of the recipes I saw went with water-bath canning.

        1. re: LauraGrace

          Lemon juice is what I've used, and think is more appropriate than vinegar.

          castiron, can you share the recipe you used? Here is one I have used (I do the spiced version):

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            Thanks for the feedback! We, errrr..., didn't follow a recipe ... I was kind of going on memories of what my mom used to do, which in my possibly faulty recollection was to make apple sauce and then cook it down for a long, long time. But she never canned it, so that might be part of my problem. What we did was
            1 - Cored a huge amount of mostly apples (galas and honeycrisps, but did not peel) - prob. 25 lbs, and a few pears.
            2 - Cooked them with a little added water, and some allspice, cloves, cinnamon.
            3 - When they were soft (after maybe an hour) we put them through a food mill.
            4 - Put the milled product (basically apple sauce) back on the stove and cooked it for probably 5 hours. After 5 h. it was definitely thicker and a nice dark brown, but just not really spreadable consistency. This took longer than we thought, so then I put it in the fridge and went to sleep. Oh but first I ate a small bowl of it.
            5 - Heated it back up on the stove (at this point there's a gallon of it) and added one box of Sure-jell low sugar pectin, boiled it for two minutes according to the instructions on the pectin.
            6 - Packed it and pressure canned it. (Followed directions on the pressure canner - processed 10 min at 10 lbs - we're at 5500 feet).

            Do you guys think it'll work? i.e. be safe to eat in a few months? Our newbie opinion was that the pressure canning would make everything safe so we just thought we could kinda do whatever in terms of a recipe.

            1. re: castiron

              It should be fine, though I am by no means an expert. Apples are a high-acid food, so you don't normally need to pressure can apple butter. You don't need to add any acid. I don't think the pectin will hurt it, but I'm not quite sure if it will do much.

              Here's what I do, which is a crock pot variation of the Ball Blue Book recipe.
              Layer sliced and peeled apples in the crock pot, with a handful of brown sugar if you'd like, and some spices after each layer. At the top, I add sliced discs of peeled ginger (this whole recipe is based on that of a fellow CHer whose name I can't remember to credit). Cook on high, stirring every once in a while and adding more apples as the level drops.

              When it is dark and packed to the brim, mash it up, or puree with an immersion blender. Continue to cook on high with the lid off for awhile until it's as thick as you like it, if it's not thick enough. It has always ended up spreadable for me.

              Can in a boiling water for ten minutes for pints.

              I've added pears half and half and it's been wonderful. In fact, just got asked for more from someone I gave a jar to last week. Also freezes well if you're feeling lazy :)

              1. re: castiron

                You didn't need the pectin. Fruit butters rely on long slow cooking to evaporate the water. When you open the jars of pectin added apple butter you might find you have something resembling a fruit cheese. You'll be able to slice the stuff. Not a problem, it'll still be good. Pressure canning is not necessary for apple butter, nor is the addition of acid (lemon, vinegar) although the lemon will brighten the other flavors.
                The amount of time a fruit takes to cook down into a butter depends on how much moisture the fruit itself contains, how much moisture you may have added, and how much moisture there is in the air. All variables with every batch you make. Good tests for butters being done are: does the butter mound up on a teaspoon? and, does water separate out of the butter when a teaspoon is set on a plate? In the latter one let the butter sit on the plate for a good minute. If you see a ring of moisture seep out, it needs to go a little longer. I've found that the easiest way of cooking down butters is to put the sauce in a large roaster in the oven at 375F. This cuts way down on the chance of it scorching or burning and you don't have to stand over it stirring and watching it like a hawk for hours. Stir it once or twice an hour to begin with, more often as it thickens and cooks down. Towards the end you may want to lower the heat in the oven to finish it off. If you are making a small amount you can cook it down in a crock pot overnight with the lid off. How long it takes (stove top or oven method) also depends on the volume of sauce you're dealing with. There is no set time. Sometimes it goes very quickly and other times it may be in there for hours. Don't fret about the color, apple butter will be a deep, deep mahogany brown when it's done. Peach butter is a little lighter but still a deep brown, plum or grape butter is a purplish brown- more brown than purple. Water bathing fruit butters is the usual method of canning: 10 min for half pints and pints, 15 min for quarts at your altitude (15 & 20 respectively for 6,000' and higher, you're kinda on the cusp). You can also freeze it.

            2. re: LauraGrace

              There is no need to pressure can apple butter or apple sauce. They are sufficiently acidic for safe boiling water bath processing.