The Best Type Of Apple To Turn Into Butter

Apples are pretty much perfect enough on their own, with their natural crunch and subtle tartness that make for a tasty snack any time of day. But cook this beautiful fruit down into a smooth, sweet, spreadable apple butter, and you've got a whole new level of perfection.

But the thing with apples is that their varieties are seemingly endless. There are over 7,500 different kinds of apples out there in the world and 2,500 in the U.S. alone. So if you're thinking about making apple butter — and run with that thought; you should totally do it — you might not know where to start.

While they're all arguably delicious, not all apples are created equal, and there are many ways to use different apple varieties. The best ones to transform into an ooey, gooey apple butter? The key is in their softness: Go for varieties that are softer in texture — because these apples will ultimately break down more easily, cook faster, and produce a smooth and tasty spread.

Apple varieties to look out for

Obviously, different types of apples will be available depending on where you live and the time of year. But next time you peruse those piles of apples at the grocery store or your local farmer's market, there are several apple varieties to seek that will make great apple butter — each bringing something slightly different to the table.

Sweet apples will make for even sweeter apple butter, so if you're a "the sweeter, the better" type, choose tender varieties that have a slight sweetness to them, like McIntosh and Jonamac apples. If you're the opposite and want something that will balance out the sugar, go for soft, tart varieties like Cortland, Idared, and Gravenstein. Braeburn and Fuji are great options that are somewhere in the middle because they have both sweet and tart flavor notes.

For something a little different, try varieties like Grimes Golden and Liberty, which have more unique, naturally spiced undertones that will pair well with the spices and flavors of apple butter. If you're looking for a tried-and-true pick that's available year-round, reach for Golden Delicious. And if you want a more dimensional apple butter with a complex flavor, try blending any of the above together.

How to make apple butter

Once you've got your hands on your soft, tender apple variety of choice, turning them into apple butter is simple — you just need a few ingredients and some time. The process is essentially to first make applesauce by slowly cooking down the apples (cored) until they're mushy. Then, puree the mixture and cook it down further until it's thick, caramelized, and buttery.

You can make apple butter in a slow cooker or crockpot, in the oven, over the stove, or even in the microwave. The prep is fairly easy: Cut and core your apples (it's up to you whether you want to peel them), and toss them in a pot with the sugar and spices of your choice. The ingredients are typically brown sugar, vanilla extract, salt, and spices like cinnamon, cloves, or nutmeg, but you can include other flavors and ingredients like apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, allspice, maple syrup, or ginger.

Cook everything down for several hours, depending on your cooking method, until the apples completely soften and transform into an applesauce consistency. Then puree the mixture using a food mill, high-speed blender, immersion blender, or food processor and return everything to the pot. Continue cooking for at least another hour until the mixture caramelizes to a deep brown and thickens to your desired consistency. Spread on your favorite apple butter vehicle and enjoy.