Apple Butter, the extra sweet cousin of applesauce that tastes so good it has whole festivals all to itself!
Apple butter is similar to applesauce in that they are both slow-cooked apples and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. However, apple butter is cooked for much longer.
It’s cooked until the apple carmelizes and becomes very thick with a rich, deep dark brown color. Despite what the name suggests, there isn’t actually any butter in it! The name instead comes from the thick consistency of the product.
Caramelization gives a much higher sugar concentration, and therefore a much longer shelf life than applesauce. Longer storage life is actually the reason apple butter was created.
The history of apple butter goes all the way back to the middle ages. It was first produced in monasteries in what is now Belgium and the Netherlands. As the monasteries had large fruit orchards and an abundance of fruit, they needed a way to make it last longer. The solution was to turn the leftover apples into the thick, rich, and sweet tastiness of apple butter.
Although it’s made to last, does apple butter go bad? Sadly, it eventually does. Today I’ll be taking a look at how long it lasts and how you can prolong its shelf life.
How Long Does Opened Apple Butter Last?
How long apple butter lasts after it’s been opened depends on the storage conditions.
To maximize freshness, make sure to keep it tightly sealed and in the fridge. Stored like this and kept continuously refrigerated it should stay good for up to a year.
Note that this is for the best quality and not a hard “use by” date. This is similar to if you buy a commercially produced jar with a “use by” or “best by” date. The date on the container isn’t a hard safety date, rather just an estimation of how long it will remain at peak quality.
It will still be good and safe to eat until it shows signs of spoilage.
How Long Does Unopened Apple Butter Last?
Since the whole point of making apple butter was to maintain a long shelf-life, unopened containers (if properly sealed) can last a very long time.
Most sources suggest that it’s best to eat apple butter within 2 years to enjoy it at its best quality.
However, you shouldn’t fret or throw it away if time happens to slip by and more than 2 years go by before you get the chance to eat it.
After all, some people eat jars that have been sitting in the back of a pantry for up to 15 years! Whilst I certainly would try to avoid waiting that long to eat it, as long as it’s kept in a cool and dry place like a pantry, it should stay good for a long time.
How to Tell if Apple Butter Has Gone Bad?
Despite it being quite a hardy and durable food that can apparently sometimes last over a decade, apple butter is not invincible.
Eventually, it will go bad or at the very least not be as tasty as back in its prime.
To check if it’s safe to eat you should use your senses. The smell, look, and taste of it are your best bet to check if it’s gone bad.
The biggest giveaways that it’s expired are the sight and smell of it. If it gives off a foul odor or you notice dark or white spots or mold, then it should definitely be discarded.
How to Store Apple Butter
How you should prepare and store apple butter varies depending on if it’s homemade or store-bought. Whether it’s air-sealed or just stored in a regular container (Tupperware, Ziploc, etc.) can also have an impact.
If it’s homemade it’s likely that you will be jarring/canning it if you plan on storing it for a longer period of time. For more immediate use you’ll probably just put it in a less secure and more common plastic or glass container.
When you preserve it in a vacuum-sealed jar you should follow the steps outlined by Lovely Greens. This is the correct method of preparing and sealing jars to prevent early spoilage from non sterile containers.
Once you’ve prepared your vacuum-sealed jars, make sure to label them with the date and store them in your pantry.
Apple butter in a vacuum-sealed jar doesn’t need to be refrigerated until it’s been opened.
If you’re not vacuum-sealing the containers then you should act as if they’ve been opened and store them, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator or freezer for longer storage.
If you bought it from a store or farmers’ market, then it should be vacuum-sealed and thus have a very long shelf life just being stored in the pantry.
Similar to jarring your own, it’s a good idea to label it with the date so you know how long it’s been stored.
Can you Freeze Apple Butter?
Yes! Freezing apple butter is a great way to make it last even longer.
Freezing can be a great option if you don’t have canning equipment like jars, lids and rings or if you’re just not willing to go through the whole canning process. F
Just made a fresh batch of apple butter and want to store it in the freezer? Great! But hold on a moment – before you go and chuck it into the freezer you need to test it.
First, drop a little bit of it into a bowl or onto a plate. Wait for it to cool and taste it.
If it’s thick and creamy then it’s ready to be frozen. Remove the rest that you’ve made from the heat and allow it to fully cool. Once it’s cool to the touch, put it into freezer-safe containers with about ½ inch space on the top. Seal the containers and you’re good to go!
You may be wondering if it’s as easy to freeze store bought apple butter as it is the homemade variety. The good news is it is! However, it might be necessary for you to transfer it to a freezer-safe container.
The jar that you bought it in may not be the best choice for freezing. This is because when the butter expands as it freezes it may crack the jar.
Glass jars should be made of tempered glass or labeled as freezer safe. Additionally, always make sure to leave space (½ inch to ¾ inch) at the top of the jar to allow room for expansion.
How to Defrost Apple Butter
Unlike some foods that can be put in the microwave, warmed on the stovetop, or placed in warm water, you should not defrost apple butter with these methods.
Instead, for the best results, it should be taken from the freezer and placed in the fridge, and allowed to thaw there. It usually takes about 24 hours for it to be completely defrosted.