Why This Recipe Works
Although it’s in the same family as applesauce, apple butter goes a step further, requiring cooking down apples to concentrate their flavor, drive off water, and caramelize their sugars for a dark, complex-tasting spread that is ideal for serving with baked goods or cheese or as a sandwich spread. Most store-bought versions overwhelm the apple flavor with an abundance of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. To keep the apple flavor up front in our homemade butter, we skip all the spices and instead add apple brandy, apple cider, and some lemon juice for brightness. Since firm texture wasn’t an issue, we picked two types of apples for flavor complexity—Fuji for its sweet, honey-like notes and McIntosh for classic apple taste. Because softer McIntosh apples break down more quickly than Fuji apples, we cut them into larger pieces. Cooking them with their skins on extracts maximum flavor.