Apple butter on a slice of bread
|Place of origin||Belgium and the Netherlands|
|Main ingredient(s)||Apples, cider or water|
Apple butter is a highly concentrated form of apple sauce produced by long, slow cooking of apples with cider or water to a point where the sugar in the apples caramelizes, turning the apple butter a deep brown. The concentration of sugar gives apple butter a much longer shelf life as a preserve than apple sauce.
The roots of apple butter lie in Limburg (Belgium and the Netherlands) and Rhineland (Germany), conceived during the Middle Ages, when the first monasteries (with large fruit yards) appeared. The production of the butter was a perfect way to conserve part of the fruit production of the monasteries in that region, at a time when almost every village had its own apple-butter producers. The production of apple butter was also a popular way of using apples in colonial America, well into the 19th century.
The product contains no actual dairy butter; the term "butter" refers only to the thick, soft butter-like consistency, and apple butter's use as a spread for breads. Typically seasoned with cinnamon, clove, and other spices, apple butter is usually spread on bread, used as a side dish, an ingredient in baked goods, or as a condiment. Apple butter is also used on a sandwich to add an interesting flavor, but is not as commonly used as in historical times.
It is mixed with vinegar while cooking to provide a small amount of tartness to the usually sweet apple butter. The Pennsylvania Dutch often include apple butter as part of their traditional 'seven sweets and seven sours' dinner table array.
In areas of the American South, the production of apple butter is a family event, due to the large amount of labor necessary to produce apple butter in large quantities. Traditionally, apple butter was prepared in large copper kettles outside. Large paddles were used to stir the apples, and family members would take turns stirring. In Appalachia, apple butter was the only type of fruit preserve normally rendered into fruit leather.
In Europe, apple butter is commonly used in the Netherlands (known as appelstroop (apple syrup) and in Germany (known as Apfelkraut (apple kraut) and frequently eaten on bread with (or without) thinly sliced cheese and with Sauerbraten. A sweeter version, made using pears, as well as apples, is more popular in Belgium, where it is known as sirop de Liège. Other than in Benelux and the Rhineland, apple syrup is a minority taste in Western Europe (in Germany, outside of the Rhineland, it is generally sold in health food shops), and a similar food is produced in francophone Switzerland, where it is known as vin cuit.
Russian Пови́дло (from Czech povidla or Polish powidła or powidło) prepared by the reduction of fruit puree with some sugar and sometimes spices. The final product should contain no more than 34% of moisture and about 60% of sugar. The most popular one is made from apples, but povidlo is also made from apricots, cherries, prunes, pears, and cranberries.,
In various locations across the United States, the production of apple butter is associated with a community event, most often occurring in the fall at the end of the apple-harvest season. At many of these events, apple butter is cooked on-site in the traditional method, using huge copper kettles over open fires that are stirred for hours.
Apple Butter Makin' Days has been held on the courthouse square in Mount Vernon, Missouri, each October since 1967. Kimmswick, Missouri, and Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, each have an annual apple butter festival, as well.  Grand Rapids, Ohio also celebrates with an Apple Butter Fest on October 12.
Fenner Nature Center in Lansing, MI, also has an annual Apple Butter Festival on the third weekend of October.
Oak Glen, California, has an Apple Butter Festival in November on Thanksgiving Weekend as part of the close of their official Apple Harvest Season.
- http://www.slowfood.nl/userfiles/publicaties/177_sf_arkvdsmaakbrochure_lowres.pdf (in Dutch)
- Ken Albala, "Food and faith in Christian culture." Columbia University Press, 2011. p.157 
- Apple Butter and Cheese Festival
- Fenner Nature Center
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