Slow Cooker Fruit Butters

The garden I play in came with an established orchard—primarily apple trees. With little effort on our part, we always seem to end the growing season with far more boxes of apples than we need. After we’ve eaten our fill, I always store a box or two of whole, unblemished apples for eating out of hand. Then I make as much applesauce as my canning shelves can hold. By November, I’m salvaging the fruit in the remaining boxes to create apple butter.

Fruit butters capture all of the flavor of your chosen fruit. Often seen as finicky, they’re traditionally prone to burning and need endless stirring during their lengthy cooking time. I avoided them for years but then discovered a slow cooker variation. I fell for the hands-off, burnproof technique that let me dump a bunch of fruit into my Crock-Pot, leave it to cook for hours, and return to find a perfect blend ready for the canning kettle.

Fruit butters are often seen as finicky, but they become nearly hands off and burnproof when made in a slow cooker. Learn to make Any-Fruit Butter and Slow Cooker Apple Butter.

Any-Fruit Butter

  • Servings: 6 half-pint jars
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Print
This basic recipe gives you the ratios that I’ve found to work best for a tasty fruit butter. For ingredient ideas, read the Tips & Tricks or check out the recipes for Tart Cherry Butter with Chai Spices and Slow Cooker Apple Butter.

3 quarts prepared fruit
1 cup sweetener
2 cinnamon sticks
pinch of whole cloves
other whole spices to taste
zest and juice from 1/2 lemon

Place the prepared fruit, such as apples (see below), and any collected juice in a 3-quart or larger slow cooker, filling it until there is at least 1 inch of exposed rim; set aside any excess fruit for another use. Cover the slow cooker with a lid, and cook on the highest setting for about 2 hours, until the fruit is soft.

Blend briefly with an immersion blender, add half of the sweetener, and then blend again to combine. Put all spices in an infusion bag and bury it in the fruit. Reduce the slow cooker heat to low or medium. Lay a couple of chopsticks across the top rim and put the lid on these supports, leaving a good gap for steam to escape. Let cook for 6–12 hours, until it reduces in volume by half.

Remove the spice bag. Add the remaining sweetener, adjusting it to taste. Let the mixture cook a couple of hours more to meld the flavors, stirring often. Blend the fruit butter again with an immersion blender, adding a little water if it is too thick or cooking longer if it is too thin. Stir in the lemon zest and juice.

Ladle the hot fruit butter into hot half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes, plus your altitude adjustment. Makes about 6 half-pint jars.

Tips & Tricks
  • Many fruits work as butters, particularly dense ones like apples (see below) and pears and stone fruits like cherries and plums. Or combine two or more fruits into your own blend.
  • Harvested weight versus prepared volume can vary widely. Although I usually give harvest weights, for this recipe it’s easiest to peel, core or destone, coarsely chop, and otherwise prepare your chosen fruit as needed before measuring out the amount that will fill your slow cooker.
  • Various sweeteners can be used in an amount that suits your taste. White sugar is sweet yet neutral, but brown sugar, honey, and maple syrup add their own delicious flavors to the blend.
  • The choice of spices is up to you. I find whole spices release their flavor beautifully during the long cooking time, and cinnamon and cloves are my go-to choices for any fruit butter. Other options that can be substituted or added include allspice, vanilla bean, cardamom pods, and peppercorns.
  • Cooking times depend on the settings of your slow cooker. If you’re uncertain about the efficiency of your machine, make your first batch when you can check it every hour or so to gauge its progress.

Twice as Tasty

The year my niece was born, I got a little excited: We turned 80 pounds of apples into applesauce, thinking that before the next harvest, she and my then-2-year-old nephew would power through the lot. I was wrong.

It soon became clear I would be responsible for emptying all of those jars. I love homemade applesauce, but even I was going to get burned out just dipping a spoon into jars. So I came up with many other uses for it. I sub it for oil in baked goods. I stir it into hot cereal on cold mornings. I dry it into fruit leather—a favorite kid treat. And I discovered it makes a fabulous shortcut to apple butter.

Instead coring, peeling, and chopping raw apples by hand, I simply poured the sauce into my Crock-Pot, set the heat to low, and waited for it to thicken and reduce. Now, if I’m canning enough applesauce that I pull out the Victorio food strainer, I set aside enough puree to make apple butter as well.

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

  • Servings: 6 half-pint jars
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Print
3 quarts apple puree
1 cup honey
2 cinnamon sticks
pinch of whole cloves
2 allspice berries
zest and juice from 1/2 lemon

Fill a 3-quart or larger slow cooker with apple puree to within 1 inch of the rim; alternatively, peel, core, and coarsely chop the apples as you would for Any-Fruit Butter and cook on the highest setting for about 2 hours to soften the fruit.

Set the slow cooker full of apple puree or softened fruit on low to medium heat, cover it with a lid, and let it cook for about 30 minutes, until it is warm through. Add half of the honey, stirring until it melts into the warm apple puree. Combine the spices in an infusion bag, and bury it in the puree. Cover the slow cooker loosely as you would for Any-Fruit Butter and leave it cooking for 6–12 hours, until the contents reduce in volume by half.

Remove the spice bag. Add the remaining sweetener, adjusting it to taste. Let the mixture cook another hour or two, stirring often, until the flavors are balanced. If desired, blend the apple butter with an immersion blender until smooth, and then stir in the lemon zest and juice.

Ladle the hot apple butter into hot half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes, plus your altitude adjustment. Makes about 6 half-pint jars.

Tips & Tricks
  • Even in today’s world of ever-diminishing produce varieties, apples come in a surprising range of sweet to tart. I generally mix apple varieties for sauce and butters, but if you use one variety with a hugely sweet or tart bite, adjust the added sweetener accordingly.
  • Apple butter will darken significantly as it cooks down. Although I toss apples with lemon juice as I prepare them when I want to keep their color, I’ve found this has little effect in fruit butter. Instead, add the lemon at the end for a burst of bright flavor.
  • Although most of us think of apple pie at Thanksgiving, apple butter can also be a delicious addition to the holiday table. Stir it into sweet potato mashers, or mix it into Vinegary Salad Dressing Base and toss it with greens. If people at the table have a sweet tooth like my dad, simply pass the fruit butter with the dinner rolls.


Like what you’ve learned? Twice as Tasty is offering holiday workshops designed to make your contributions to holiday meals and parties the talk of the night. To learn more, click here.

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