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Apple butter

Apple butter
Apple butter on a slice of bread
Type Spread
Place of origin Belgium and the Netherlands
Main ingredients Apples, cider or water
Cookbook: Apple butter 
Sirop de Liège on a slice of bread
Making 'black butter' in Jersey

Apple butter is a highly concentrated form of apple sauce produced by long, slow cooking of apples with cider or water to a point where the sugar in the apples caramelizes, turning the apple butter a deep brown. The concentration of sugar gives apple butter a much longer shelf life as a preserve than apple sauce.


  • Background 1
  • Dietary iron 2
  • Events 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The roots of apple butter lie in Limburg (Belgium and the Netherlands) and Rhineland (Germany), conceived during the Middle Ages, when the first monasteries (with large fruit yards) appeared. The production of the butter was a perfect way to conserve part of the fruit production of the monasteries[1] in that region, at a time when almost every village had its own apple-butter producers. The production of apple butter was also a popular way of using apples in colonial America, well into the 19th century.

The product contains no actual dairy butter; the term "butter" refers only to the thick, soft butter-like consistency, and apple butter's use as a spread for breads. Typically seasoned with cinnamon, clove, and other spices, apple butter is usually spread on bread, used as a side dish, an ingredient in baked goods, or as a condiment. Apple butter is also used on a sandwich to add an interesting flavor, but is not as commonly used as in historical times.

Vinegar is sometimes mixed in while cooking to provide a small amount of tartness to the usually sweet apple butter. The Pennsylvania Dutch often include apple butter as part of their traditional 'seven sweets and seven sours' dinner table array.[2]

In areas of the American South, the production of apple butter is a family event, due to the large amount of labor necessary to produce apple butter in large quantities. Traditionally, apple butter was prepared in large copper kettles outside. Large paddles were used to stir the apples, and family members would take turns stirring. In Appalachia, apple butter was the only type of fruit preserve normally rendered into fruit leather.

In Europe, apple butter is commonly used in the Netherlands (known as (apple syrup)appelstroop) and in Germany (known as Apfelkraut (apple kraut)]]) and frequently eaten on bread with (or without) thinly sliced cheese and with Sauerbraten. A sweeter version, made using pears, as well as apples, is more popular in Belgium, where it is known as Sirop de Liège. Other than in Benelux and the Rhineland, apple syrup is a minority taste in Western Europe (in Germany, outside of the Rhineland, it is generally sold in health food shops), and a similar food is produced in francophone Switzerland, where it is known as vin cuit.

Russian Пови́дло (from Czech povidla or Polish powidła or powidło) prepared by the reduction of fruit puree with some sugar and sometimes spices. The final product should contain no more than 34% of moisture and about 60% of sugar. The most popular one is made from apples, but povidlo is also made from apricots, cherries, prunes, pears, and cranberries. Polish "powidła" are made from fresh purple plums and with addition of sugar. In Jersey, in the Channel Islands, apple butter is known as "black butter" or lé nièr beurre and includes liquorice as an ingredient.

Apple butter can be used as a fat substitute in reduced-fat or fat-free cooking, as well as vegan recipes.[3][4]

Dietary iron

In the Netherlands "Appelstroop" is widely recognised as a good source of iron, a dietary element in which modern diets are frequently considered deficient. There is a widespread view that the iron content arises from the interaction of the acid in the apples with the metal of vessels in which the Appelstroop is prepared and / or packaged.[5][6] However, commercially sold Appelstroop is almost invariably sold in paper or plastic based containers (or, in Germany, glass jars) and well into the fifties the traditional cooking pots used for its preparation were generally of copper. Regardless of how Appelstroop originally gained its reputation as a source of dietary iron, the iron content (10–20 mg per 100 gm) in typical factory produced product is boosted by the sugar beet, which is included with apples in the approximate ratio of 30:70. The cooking process thickens the texture of the sugar beet syrup, providing the extra sweetness which modern tastes expect and increases the proportion of various mineral elements including the iron which is already present before cooking in both apples and sugar beet.


In various locations across the United States, the production of apple butter is associated with a community event, most often occurring in the fall at the end of the apple-harvest season. At many of these events, apple butter is cooked on-site in the traditional method, using huge copper kettles over open fires that are stirred for hours.

Apple Butter Makin' Days has been held on the courthouse square in Mount Vernon, Missouri, each October since 1967.[7] Kimmswick, Missouri,[8] and Berkeley Springs, West Virginia,[9] each have an annual apple butter festival, as well. [10] Grand Rapids, Ohio also celebrates with an Apple Butter Fest on October 12.

Wellesley, Ontario, has an annual Apple Butter and Cheese Festival[11] on the last Saturday in September.

Fenner Nature Center[12] in Lansing, MI, also has an annual Apple Butter Festival on the third weekend of October.

Oak Glen, California, has an Apple Butter Festival in November on Thanksgiving Weekend as part of the close of their official Apple Harvest Season.[13]

See also


  1. ^ (in Dutch)
  2. ^ Ken Albala (2011). Food and faith in Christian culture. Columbia University Press. p. 157. 
  3. ^ "Cook's Thesaurus: Fats". 
  4. ^
  5. ^ A. Rosanoff; B. M. Kennedy (25 August 2006). "Bioavailability of Iron Produced by the Corrosion of Steel in Apples". The Institute of Food Technologists. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  6. ^ A.Rosanoff, B.M.Kennedy, Fed. Proc. (1979) 38(3): 454
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Apple Butter Festival Kimmswick". GoKimmswick. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Wellesley Apple Butter & Cheese Festival". 
  12. ^ "Fenner Nature Center - Home". 
  13. ^ "Oak Glen". 

External links

  • "Stirring Up The Past", WBGU-PBS documentary Grand Rapids (Ohio) Applebutter Festival
  • Apple butter recipe
  • The original easy apple butter recipe
  • Homemade apple butter recipe
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