Rhubarb Apple Butter

Apples (c) jfhaugenWhen Life Gives You Rhubarb . . . Make Rhubarb Apple Butter

My inspiration this week came from having so many beautiful crimson stalks of rhubarb and so little time. I wanted to make a recipe that would involve lots of rhubarb, little effort and didn’t require eating within the week. Jam fit this category, and the only “jam” I could think of that could include rhubarb was fruit butter.

I’ve made lots of apple butter in the past, though never with rhubarb. So I set about creating a recipe starting with my apple butter recipe in Fruit-Sweet & Sugar-Free as the foundation and then added lots of rhubarb. I used to cook apple butter in the oven. Online I learned about using a slow cooker instead. What a wonderful alternative. As we just happened to have a crock-pot in the garage given to us as a wedding gift almost 20 years ago, the stage was set.

Made without even a dab of butter
Apples (c) jfhaugenSo, other than a great way to make use of a lot of fruit, just what is fruit butter? Its name comes not from being made with butter, but rather because both its smoothness and spreadability are similar to softened butter.

To make fruit butter, cook the fruit slowly for a number of hours in order to evaporate any excess liquid and concentrate its flavor. This process intensifies the sweetness of the fruit so that in contrast with jam, only a minimal amount of additional sweetener is needed.

Because I’ve included naturally sweet apples and concentrated apple juice along with the rhubarb, this recipe required only 1/3 cup of honey to balance 5 pounds of tart rhubarb.

How do you know when it is ready?
There are a couple of very easy visual keys for determining when fruit butter is done. They both require placing a small plate in the freezer. Wait until the fruit butter has cooked a couple of hours to test for doneness.

Not Quite Ready Yet (c) jfhaugenOnce the plate is cold, remove it and place a spoonful of your fruit butter on the plate. Look for:

  1. Little or no clear liquid separating out from the fruit butter
  2. A thick and spreadable jam-like consistency

In this picture the fruit butter has great texture, but you can still see a little too much clear liquid around it. So I cleaned the plate and put it back into the freezer and checked the fruit butter twice more over the next half hour before it was done.

Canning instructions
There are many books in print and sources on the internet with detailed information for canning jams, jellies and fruit butters—a very simple process. Check this page for some clear introductory videos. Consider borrowing a copy of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving from your local library or buy your own copy for everything you may ever need to know about canning in general, and canning jams, jellies and fruit butters in particular.

Rhubarb, rhubarb everywhere
So when life gives you rhubarb you now have at least a couple of recipes including the Rhubarb Apple ‘n Ginger Crisp from a couple of weeks ago and today’s Rhubarb Apple Butter.

Rhubarb Apple Butter on Toast (c) jfhaugenRhubarb Apple Butter

Do the final reducing and concentrating of flavors in a slow cooker—what a breeze. As there is no concern with burning you can go about doing other things—coming back to give your Rhubarb Apple Butter a stir about once an hour.

Makes 11 cups

13 cups apples (3 ½ pounds), cored, 1-inch dice
12 ounces frozen apple juice concentrate
1½ cups water
17 ½ cups rhubarb (5 pounds), 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup honey, or more to taste

Combine the diced apples, apple concentrate and water in a large soup pot over medium heat. Cover the pot and cook about 45 minutes till the apples are very soft. Transfer them to a food processor and blend until the skin disintegrates.

Rhubarb Added to Pureed Apples (c) jfhaugenCombine the pureed apples with the rhubarb and the spices in the same large soup pot. Cover the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until the rhubarb breaks down and gives up its juices.

Lid Arrangement while Cooking the Rhubarb Apple Butter (c) jfhaugenTransfer the mixture to a slow cooker set on high. Place a couple of chopsticks or knives across the top of the crock and place the lid on top of them. This will allow the fruit butter to reduce without splattering all over your kitchen counter. Stir about once an hour.

Just Before Blending with the Immersion Blender (c) jfhaugenAfter 3 hours, stir in the honey. As rhubarb is rather stringy, I used an immersion blender to create a smooth and luxurious textured fruit butter. Alternatively, you could blend your fruit butter a little at a time in a blender.

Begin testing the butter for doneness after it has cooked for 3 ½ hours. Place a small plate in the freezer.Once the plate is cold, remove it and place a spoonful of your fruit butter on the plate. Look for:

  1. Little or no clear liquid separating out from the fruit butter
  2. A thick and spreadable jam-like consistency

Next, taste the Rhubarb-Apple Butter on the plate as it is much easier to ascertain its final flavor when it’s cold. If you prefer sweeter fruit butter, add additional honey to taste.

Rhubarb Apple Butter (c) jfhaugenI chose to can most of my fruit butter in order to enjoy it throughout the year.

If you are new to canning, look at this page for introductory videos.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe