Although I made this cranberry apple butter as one of my Christmas gifts, I thought I'd save this post for after the New Year. After all, this is the time of year where every diet company or brand tries to shame us collectively into "getting fit" and "eating clean" (a phrase which I loathe with every fiber of my being). I'm definitely not on board with the body shaming or diet culture, but I do enjoy eating (relatively) healthy. And even healthy food should taste good - enter this cranberry apple butter.
Yes, there is sugar in this recipe; but compared to the amount of apples and cranberries, the sugar is pretty much incidental. Particularly if you're just spreading this on your toast in the morning, you'll be eating very little added sugar.
You can circumvent the refined sugar completely and use only maple syrup, but I like the half-and-half mix because 1) maple syrup is expensive, and 2) even if you use only maple syrup, you really don't get the flavour from it, just the sweetness. The mixture of both strikes the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness that comes from the cranberries - I adore sour foods, but first thing in the morning it can be a bit too much for me. If you're using only maple syrup, you may want to increase the maple syrup to fit your palate.
This spread freezes beautifully, pairs as well with meat as it does with bread (try it with some herb/lemon roasted chicken!), and this recipe makes enough to give away to friends and family with quite a lot left over for yourself. Everybody wins - happy new year!
Cranberry Apple Butter
- Two 12 oz. packages of fresh or frozen cranberries (about 14 cups)
- One 5 pound bag of apples (80 oz.)
- 1/2 cup sugar (3.5 oz)
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (4 oz)*
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. vanilla
- 3 cinnamon sticks (optional)
- 2-3 cups cranberry juice or apple juice, or mixture of both (16 - 24 oz.)**
* Again, you can use only maple syrup if you'd like, but the end result will be slightly more tart than if you use a half-and-half mixture of sugar and syrup. If you're not a fan of sour foods, increase to 1.5 cups of maple syrup (6 oz.)
** I use a mixture of unfiltered apple cider and cranberry juice (preferably in no-added-sugar varieties).
WASH your cranberries and apples well.
CHOP your apples into quarters, removing the core and seeds. Leave the skin on - apple skin has pectin in it, a natural thickening agent, and you'll be sieving this all later, which is when the skins will be removed.
COMBINE the apples, cranberries, and 2 cups of juice in a large, heavy bottomed pot. If it looks close to overflowing, that's okay! The mixture will cook down significantly.
HEAT the pot on medium until the liquid begins to boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low.
COOK the mixture for 15-20 minutes, then stir.
WAIT another 10 minutes, then stir again. Continue stirring every 5-10 minutes to prevent the mixture burning on the bottom, and continue cooking and stirring until you've reached a total cooking time of 50 minutes. If the mixture is becoming thick, add the rest of your juice.
TEST your apples - some will have fallen apart completely, others may hold their shape, but they should all be soft when pressed with a spoon. If some still haven't cooked through, return the pot and cook for another 20 minutes, or until the apples have all softened.
COOL the mixture slightly, so it's no longer steaming hot. You can absolutely strain this while it's still hot, it just makes the process more annoying.
SIEVE the mixture - this part is the most arduous. Set a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and spoon a few cups of the apple/cranberry mixture into the sieve. Press the mixture through with a spatula until only the apple skins remain. Repeat this process until the whole mixture has been sieved. You'll have a rough looking apple sauce when it's all done.
BLEND the mixture, preferably with an immersion blender. This part is completely optional, but will give you a much smoother product. You can also do this with a regular blender, working in batches - I just prefer the immersion blender because it means less dishes to wash.
RINSE out your pot that the apples and cranberries were cooked in.
POUR your new blended mixture back into the pot, along with the vanilla and cinnamon.
COOK the mixture over low heat, stirring very frequently, until the mixture has thickened to your desired consistency (the thicker it gets, the more easily it will burn). This will take at least an hour or two, and things are going to get messy. I set a lid so it covered about 3/4 of the pot, which saved me from some of the splattering. You can also skip all the mess and fuss of stirring if you're lucky enough to have a crockpot (unlike me); the crockpot will take longer to reduce - keep the lid off - but it's worth it since it takes so little effort.
COOL the mixture completely before portioning it into air-tight containers (mason jars are great for gifts, but any tupperware or plastic container will work too).
REFRIGERATE the apple butter for up to a month, or freeze for up to a year.