Against all odds and the forewarning of my arborist, my apple tree is alive. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. When I was told three years ago that I needed to cut down my tree because it had fire blight, an invasive disease that would kill the bark and limbs of the plant, I was more than sad. To some, an apple tree is just another plant in their yard, but to me, my apple tree meant (and still means) much more.

I love my apple tree. Obviously, there are the crisp fresh apples it produces, which I am very fond of. From fresh apple pies and cakes to apple syrup and butter, I have tried to make the most of the fruit my tree ekes out each year. Yet even without the fruit I would still love the blossoms that seem to abruptly arrive in a burst of pink each spring, and the family of birds that nests there — just outside my family room window. I love the shady patio that is protected from the mid-day sun by those craggy limbs full of green leaves and the privacy they provide from my neighbor’s yard. My tree also reminds me that apples are not all Fuji, Braeburn, and Granny Smith. You see the apples that grow on my tree seem to be some sort of heirloom variety that is not sold in stores. These trees appear on almost every lot in my neighborhood, but I’ve never seen apples like them in grocery stores or farmers’ markets. My neighborhood is old (coming up on 100 years) and who knows when these trees were planted. I’m guessing in the 70s, but maybe the seeds that started them were here earlier. Who knows. Both the time when they were planted and the name of this apple seem to be a mystery, yet what is evident is the presence of this forgotten varietal.

Yes, I can get very sentimental about my tree.

So this year, instead of mourning the loss of my tree — as I’ve been expecting to do for quite a while now — I instead happily made my yearly supply of apple butter. Although this jam takes hours to simmer, the preparation is really quite simple. Apples are full of natural pectin, so you never have to worry about it setting or firming up. Just peel, core, chop, cook and can.

Ever since my tree got its death sentence, I’ve really grown to appreciate everything about it. When I sit in its shade, I enjoy the cool breeze a little more, and when I take a bite of apple butter I taste the sweet caramelized flavors more intently. It’s a good reminder to appreciate what you have, when you have it, because you just never know, from season to season, what will be left behind.

apple butter on an english muffin

Apple Butter

Makes: enough for 8 jars

3 quarts cored, peeled and chopped apples
2 cups apple cider
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Put all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Immediately lower heat and simmer for 5-7 hours. Can or freeze.

Making Apple Butter 9 September,2010Denise Santoro Lincoln

  • I truly, have enjoyed your recipes. This one has settled a marriage long (13 yrs) “disagreement” my wife and I have over Apple butter. I felt strongly that Apple Butter should have butter in it. My wife on the other hand, disagrees with me, since she make Apple butter every year from our Crabapple Trees. So with this recipe, I stand corrected. Not everything needs to have butter in it to be tasty. Thank you.

  • Hi John — Oh, I love that story. Have you ever had apple butter with real butter in it? I’ve never even heard of that before but it sounds delicious (like apple pie in a jar)!

  • I have made it a few times. Its kind of one of those, shoot from the hip creations. Most often I just use the same principles as a compound butter and shoot for a creamy spread. The issue you will come across is getting the butter and apple to incorporate. But, with a food processor and a little tweaking, one should have no problems. Once again, Thank you for your Apple Butter Recipe!


Denise Santoro Lincoln

I am a writer, editor, mother of twins, and enthusiastic home cook. I was raised by an Italian-American mother who, in the 1970s, grew her own basil (because she couldn’t find any in the local grocery stores), zucchini (for those delicious flowers), and tomatoes (because the ones in the store tasted like “a potato”). My mom taught us to love all kinds of food and revere high-quality ingredients. I am now trying to follow in my mother’s footsteps and am on a mission to help my daughters become adventurous eaters who have a healthy respect for seasonal food raised locally. My daughters and I grow vegetables and go to the farmers’ market. We also love to shop at Piedmont Grocery and Trader Joe’s. When I’m not hanging out with my daughters or cooking, I like to contribute to cookbooks (including Williams-Sonoma’s Food Made Fast and Foods of the World series), work as an editor, and write about food for Bay Area Bites and Denise’s Kitchen. My food inspirations are M.F.K Fisher, Julia Child, and Alice Waters — three fabulous women who encompass everything I love about food.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor