Last fall I made apple butter for the first time in my crock pot and it was delicious but it required something crazy like a cup and a half of sugar. As tasty as it was (and as good as it made the house smell), I really didn’t want to use all that sugar this year so I decided to try to make some using nothing but medjool dates as sweetener. I also left the peel on the apples to increase the amount of fiber and polyphenols and other good stuff in my apple butter. It worked out really well! This for sure is a bit more tart and less sweet than last year’s batch but I’m ok with that! I used 4 dates in mine and I found it plenty sweet (but John tells me my sweet tooth is overly sensitive) but feel free to use a couple more if you are tentative about going the no refined sugar route. Also, I used Macintosh apples (because that’s all the Orchard had the day we went apple picking) but using sweeter apples like Fuji, Gala or Honeycrisp could result in a much sweeter butter.
Apple butter is good stuff! It’s great on toast or rice cakes, stirred into oatmeal, dolloped into smoothies or onto vanilla ice cream and it’s even good in savory dishes (try mixing it with dijon mustard & chives as a sauce for chicken or pork) and if you store it in mason jars it freezes really well.
10 – 12 medium sized apples, peel left on, cut into chunks
4 – 8 medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup water (optional)
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp vanilla extract
Put all ingredients in a 6 qt crock pot, cover and turn heat to low. Cook for 5-8 hours, stirring occasionally until the apples and dates are completely broken down and start to take on a thick consistency and a caramel color. Let cool and carefully pour into a blender and blend just for a minute or two to ensure the apple skins are finely pulverized (you’ll be amazed how broken down they get just by cooking in the crock pot for hours). If for some reason the apple butter seems too liquidy after blending, you can put it back in the crock pot and cook until it reaches a consistency you are happy with – the longer you cook it will reduce more liquid, concentrating the sweetness and flavor. I’m kind of a lazy cook and I don’t want to cook twice so I’m more likely to just keep cooking until it’s as thick as I like – but your call!
Pour into mason jars and refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve.
My batch filled two 16 oz mason jars to the top!