What Is Apple Butter—Is There Actually Dairy in It?

I grew up in New England, and one of the all time classic fall activities in this region is to go apple picking (I’m told they do this in other places, too). You drive to an orchard and they give you a basket and a long rod with a pokey thing on it and then they let you loose amongst their trees. You wander around, grab promising-looking apples from the tree branches, and try not to get too much mud on your shoes. Then buy some cider donuts, and drive home with a big bag full of apples.

As your quiet contentment about owning apples that you yourself picked from a real life tree begins to fade, and the apples begin to approach rot, you wonder: What exactly are you supposed to do with all of them? How many apple pies can one person eat, after all? 

Well, if you ever find yourself in this situation, you’ll be glad you read this article, because I am about to teach you all about apple butter. 

What is apple butter?

Apple butter is a sweet, apple-based, jam-ish spread that traces its roots to medieval monasteries. It’s made by slow-cooking pureed apples until they caramelize into a gooey, butter-like substance.

What is in apple butter?

This is one of those things that sounds like it should be obvious but isn’t. If butter is churned milk fat, is apple butter churned apple…fat? That can’t be right.

In truth, apple butter is made from apples, apple juice or water, sugar, and a blend of spices. It contains no dairy. The “butter” in its name simply refers to the buttery thickness of the product. 

If you want to try making it at home, whether because you’re a regretful apple picker or just someone who likes experimenting in the kitchen, Simply Recipes has got you covered. Keep in mind it takes hours and hours to make this stuff! 

Apple butter vs applesauce

Applesauce and apple butter are quite similar. In fact, Wikipedia defines apple butter as a form of concentrated apple sauce. This is the basic difference: concentration. Apple butter has been slow cooked until the moisture evaporates and the applesauce caramelizes. It’s much thicker than applesauce and it has a significantly longer shelf life.  

Uses for apple butter

There’s not really any wrong way to go when it comes to using apple butter. It’s a sweet spread, so it has a natural home alongside the marmalades, jellies, and syrups of the breakfast table. You can eat it on toast or put it in your oatmeal

If you want to try baking with apple butter, Insanely Good Recipes has an expansive list of recipes that utilize this concentrated goo—one that looks particularly appealing (apple-ealing? No?) is the apple butter spice cake, which combines the key ingredient with a slew of spices and tops it off with a cream cheese frosting. I would like to eat this, please.

Now that you’ve eaten from the Tree Of Apple Butter Knowledge, go out and enjoy your new found wisdom! 

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

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