All the recipes I could find for apple butter in a crock pot call for the first boiling step to be done on the stove top. It takes 10 hours to cook it down in a crock pot. I've put in other directions also, for more traditional methods. I have made apple butter before, but I did it in my oven.
After making this last night (1/6/2011), here is what I found:
NOTE: I used about 50% more of the spices, and used both nutmeg and allspice because it tasted like it needed it. I also added about 1/3 cup of sorghum at the last as a sweetener. And I changed the cider to 4 cups, because that's what it took to keep my apples in juice during the first cooking.
This recipe really tastes great! And it was fun. Thanks for everyone's support.
Do not peel or core your apples. Just slice them thin. You will be putting them through a food mill which will remove the seeds, etc.
Put the cider into a big stainless steel or enamel pot and bring to a boil. Do not use an aluminum pot because the fruit acids may react with the metal and spoil the taste. Add apples slowly, being careful not to splatter yourself when you do. Allow the apples and cider to come to a boil, then simmer, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Don't forget to stir during this step.
When the apple butter has begun to thicken considerably, the apple slices will start to fall apart as you stir the butter. At that point, (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours), remove from heat and put everything through a food mill, discarding the peels, seeds, and stems. Now you can choose one of 3 methods to complete the apple butter: slow cooker, roasting pan in oven, or stovetop.
1 - Slow Cooker: Put the remaining soupy mixture into a large slow cooker on high, uncovered. Cook for 10 hours, stirring occasionally and pushing the outer edges into the middle of the butter. Leave the lid off. Let it cook down until it is a thick, dark brown mass.
2 - Roasting pan in oven: After running the mixture through the food mill, put it in a large stainless steel or glass roasting pan and cook, uncovered, in the oven at 325 degrees until thick. This may take 4 or more hours.
3 - Stovetop: Put the apple puree back into the stainless steel or enamel pot and simmer until the apple butter is thick and dark brown. This will take approximately 4 - 5 hours. Stir frequently and keep the heat low, at a slow simmer. Use an asbestos burner pad if your pot does not have a thick bottom. This could also be done in an enamel-coated dutch oven, but not a plain cast iron one due to the acid in the apples.
When apple butter has reached the thick, dark brown mass stage, stir in the spices, and sweetener to taste if desired. Bring the mixture to a boil on the stove, and place it in hot, scalded half-pint jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Seal and process for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath, or 5 minutes at 5 pounds pressure. May also be refrigerated without processing for up to 2 weeks, or frozen. Thawing will affect the consistency.
Note: If your fruit is ripe or slightly overripe, the natural sugars in them are at their peak, and no extra sweetener may be necessary. Be sure to taste before adding sweetener.