Wit’s End Apple Butter

2020, among other things, has been filled with the unexpected. One of these was the acquisition of a small apple and plum orchard at the beginning of the year. As the year progressed, and our patience with lockdowns and pandemics wore thin we christened the orchard “Wit’s End”. Then the apples blossomed. Then they ripened. And then we had apples. Lots of them.

And so now we have jars, and jars, of apple butter, apple sauce, apple chutney, and apple juice. The butter (thicker and smoother than apple sauce) though, was one of the biggest hits. I’ve gotten enough requests for the recipe, so instead of copying and pasting from the notes app every time, here it is.


  • 4 lbs / 1kg of apples
  • 1 cup / 240 mL water
  • 1 cup / 240 mL apple vinegar
  • 4 cups / 1 kg sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp fresh ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 orange, cut up and seeds removed
  • 1 orange peel, minced (make sure there is as little of the white stuff under the outer peel as possible)
the level of the apples go down as they soften up

Now, we have so many apples that it becomes tiresome to weigh them out each time. What I generally do is chop them up (leave the peel on, but trash the core. Even if the core supposedly contains a lot of pectin, the bits between the teeth and the seeds that come with it aren’t worth the trouble.) and fill the big pot almost all the way to the top (allowing for the sugar and spices), then I pour in a whole bag of sugar (I generally buy the 1kg bags), the 1 cup measurement for the water and vinegar is really more important as 1:1, and the less liquid you have in the pot, the less you will have to boil off later to get a good consistency. So if you have a cup measure, great! Or you could just use a roughly equivalent mug or water cup you may have lying around.

The spices are more important. The better quality cinnamon you use, the better it will taste. I have a hard time finding ground cloves, so I use a mortar and pestle to smash them, then have to chop them a bit with a knife to get the stems down to a better size.

The original recipe I tried called only for lemon zest, but keeping lemons is tedious, and I don’t drink enough to use a whole lemon as a garnish. We had oranges lying around, so I got lazy and just used the whole peel (the small bits of peel in the butter are fantastic by the way). I liked the flavor better than just using zest, so I ended up just putting the whole orange in minus the seeds.

So when you have all of this in the big pot, turn the heat on high and bring it to a boil. You may want to stir it a bit as it goes just to get the spices and apples on top more integrated. Do this for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally only because it won’t burn on the bottom… yet.

When the apples are really mushy, you can go in a few different directions. I have a hand blender, and I like my apple butter really smooth. But if you don’t have one, or a stand up blender (which is messy), you could use a potato masher to mash it up real well into apple sauce. It’ll be chunky, but not bad. Plus, you’ll get more of those tasty orange bits.

Once you’ve got the sauce to the consistency that you want, you may choose to continue boiling it to thicken it up. I suggest stirring more occasionally here, as it will stick and burn to the bottom of the pot. The trick is not letting it boil too hard, or you’ll have apple lava spitting all over the stovetop and your arms (also, wear and apron, and maybe shoes too). I found a splash guard to be especially handy in this stage as it lets the steam out, but keeps the lava in. Stirring under the guard can be tricky, but try to at least scrape the bottom of the pot that is most likely to burn the sauce.

all that splatter would have been very painful on my arms and very sticky to wipe up later