Shelf Stable pre-1900 Apple Butter

What is the consistency of that stuff like? Messing around with boiling cider is definitely on my agenda. I’ve made it a couple times, but not enough to keep it around to see how well it does over time. I’ve done grape syrup. It kept fine, but crystalized.

Hey, thanks! People seem to respond well to my stuff when exposed, but there is a lot of competition for people’s attention out there, so feel free to share away! I might produce some frankentreeing videos this spring if I can pull it off.

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Thanks for sharing, I’m going to try your apple butter recipe this next fall. I also thought your fire building drill video was awesome! I’m going to have to give that a try too. :grinning:

I was recently reading the new “Book of Pears” by Morgan and there is a section there on a pear spread that is basically apple butter. She calls it “stroop” which is the Dutch name for it; it is also often made out of apples. Here is a wiki page on the Belgian version (with also pointers to Swiss, etc versions):

The apple butter in the US is based on this European tradition. Like traditional apple butter there is no sugar added and a long cook. They usually strain out the solids in stroop, that may be a difference in the European and US versions (but I didn’t look into it in detail).

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Thanks for sharing that Scott, that is really neat. It makes sense that there would be traditional preparations something like this all over the world, and that some would travel over with immigrants. A guy from the middle east left some comments on my blog all about grape syrup and it’s use over there. Someone else said there are some similar products in Russia. These guys carry a couple kinds of Sirop de Liege. Shipping is kind of pricey though.

Here is a recipe for it:

It looks like traditional apple butter but with lots of pears and to strain with cheesecloth. Also the fruit is only quartered, no seed removal or anything. It is stored in crocks not jars.

Here is Google translate on the recipe:

2 kg of apples
6 kg of pears


1 / Wash the apples and pears. Do not peel them and cut them into quarters.
Pour into a large pot and cook on low for 4 hours.
2 / At the end of that time turn off the heat and as soon as the preparation has stopped boiling, pass it through cheesecloth, pressing well the whole so as to extract maximum juice.
3 / Pour the resulting juices in the pan and let reduce to syrup for 3 hours the mass should be thick and much brighter.
4 / To check the cooking status, pour a drop of syrup into a bowl of cold water.
If the drop remains consistent, cooking is complete.
5 / Pour immediately into sandstone or glass pots previously boiled and carefully dried.

Keep in a cool, preferably in a basement.

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It’s a pretty firm jelly consistency. It’s Wood’s Cider Mill in Vermont, I think their website describes how they make it – it’s great stuff.

I stumbled onto your blog on this topic and was intrigued. I own and operate Smith’s Apple Butter which is part of Smith’s Country Fresh Products in Liberty, IN. I can assure you that shelf stable apple butter is not a lost art or has it died out and never if if I have anything to do with it. My family has made this wonderful product of old time goodness for over 200 years and I still do it the same way as my great grandparents. Our recipe is an old German one from the old German order side of my grandmothers family whom of which I can trace back to 1774. I still use the same copper kettle that has been in our family for over five generations. You can see photos and information on our website at
My Grandmother was still using a jar of it in 1985 which her mother made in 1925 and I always tell our customers that I don’t recommend keeping it for 60 years but they won’t have any problem keeping it for several years if they don’t devour it first. I always tell them that our recipe was developed before refrigeration was. I remember it setting in my grandmothers house in open gallon crocks with just a loose covering over it to keep out dust or contaminates. Today I have had it tested by two individual food science labs and now we know the science behind why it keeps. While our recipe and cook process is a closely guarded family secret the ingredients are listed on our labels and it maintains a very low pH of 3.0-3.5 which is below the state minimum standard of 4.6 and it has a water activity below the std of .85 thus it does not allow any microbial growth. In Lehman’s terms, it won’t mold or spoil.


Great info. I figured it was primarily the sugar, but interesting to hear that the acidity may have something to do with it too. You do read quite a bit in that old literature about blending the apples. Mine seems to be keeping fine even going through many runs of 95 to 101 degree temps. I know the water content is key and I really pushed it as low as I though I could. I’m interested to see what consistency yours is. In the stuff I dug up it said a couple of times that is was stored in the Garret. Do you think the reason for storing in the Garret might have been to keep the moisture down, or more specifically to drive back off any accumulating moisture gathered by the Hygroscopic nature of the sugars? That is my theory. Thanks for sharing. I’ll plug your website when I get an opportunity!

Mackintosh Farm of Berryville, Virginia has an upcoming apple butter event, in case you want to fly cross-country to witness their day-long process.

I recently discovered the Bauman family line of apple-butter products.

I have eaten their apple butter and tomato butter, but my far and away favorite is their blueberry butter.

Here is their info.


I’d be interested in trying the no-sugar butters

I am so glad you posted this. We grew with an apple butter that was more of a dark syrup with a molasses consistency, this looks similar. It was not homemade and I think my grandmother used to send it from Germany to my mom. My grandmother had certain ideas about the wilds of Canada that her daughter was being taken to. She didn’t trust the food and was worried my mother would not have access to salt :smirk:

My mom did do a plum butter. No amounts in this recipe, just eyeball measuring.
put white sugar in a heavy bottomed pot
pile on pitted prune plums
put on high heat for 5 min.
reduce the heat to low and simmer all day stirring very little, only enough to keep it from burning. The mixture ends up with a caramelized plummy flavour. Great on toast.


Snow day today, son is home from school and we are making this recipe with our stockpiled 2017 apples. I have mostly made apple butter in the oven, baking halved apples at low hear, mashing them down, then running the pulp through the food mill. Also have made boiled cider syrup, which returned out a bit too sour, I think sweet apples are key.
8 cups of freshly juiced cider is on the woodstove…using Spitzenburg, Baldwin, russets.
Thanks Skillcult!


8 cups of cider, 6 cups of apple reduced to just over 3 cups of the concentrated apple butter, it is very rich and tasty stuff! Topped the jars off with parchment paper. I will be making some more of this as I want to test the long term shelf life, and doubt my first batch will last very long…


Way to go! I love it when people do this recipe. I think it can be brought back into use, but it requires a certain attitude. It died out for a reason, but I don’t think for good reasons :slight_smile: I’ve kept my original batches now for two years and they are still good, even with extreme temperature swings. It gets to be over 100º F in here quite a bit in the summer. The ones covered with paper, and even parchment which is vapor proof, have dried some and I think for this situation a regular lid which prevents any moisture change is better. I don’t recall any recipes using wax, but it seems like a way to possibly seal for long term storage in pre-industrial times. Batches made last year are also perfectly fine now. I made last year’s apple butter a little softer. It is still quite substantial, but easier to spread. I would still say it is a little bit of work to spread at room temperature, something like cool, but not cold butter maybe. It is called apple butter after all. Getting the moisture content right is the trick. It has to be cooled to know what it will be like as, similar to any concentrated sugar solution, it is much less stiff when it’s warm. A cold plate helps, and cooking very slow at the end so there is time to test the consistency periodically. I’m not sure how to reduce that to a quality or quantity that can be communicated in a recipe. The common recommendation in old recipes seems to be if it will stick to an upside down plate, but it does that before it’s all the way ready. I don’t think it is a problem to re-cook it to get it right, but for sure, it can be over-cooked and begin to caramelize, which I think is unpreferable. Some recipes say to bake it instead of cooking in a kettle to prevent scorching, which makes sense. My friend makes Membrillo that way, which is a similar preparation using quince.


That sounds something like boiled cider in America, basically apple syrup, which also used to be common. It seems logical that you could make various preparations using more or less juice and apples as long as the sugar to moisture ratio hit the safe zone for preservation.

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That is heartening to see someone still making the stuff. Very cool, thanks for posting!

I make apple syrup , boiled down cider about 8: 1.
Like apple honey , shelf stable , good on everything.!

Thanks for posting this , I am working on a batch with your recipe.
Thanks …hillbillyhort

Made another batch and kept a rough count of how many apples went in…2 finished pints of the butter used around 100 fresh apples, most of them went into the mix in the form of cider.