Cut the apples into large chunks, removing the cores.
Place the apple pieces into your slow cooker along with the sugar, vanilla extract, and other ingredients. Cook on high for 1-2 hours, until the apples begin to soften. If they appear to get too dark, without getting soft enough or without releasing enough of their juices to prevent burning, either add a little water or turn the temperature down.
Once the apples have softened a bit, lower the heat to the low setting. Continue to cook for several hours, stirring and checking on the mixture occasionally.
The mixture will darken as the apples caramelize. When you are happy with the color and flavor, use an immersion blender to purée the apples into a smooth paste.
Taste the apple butter and adjust it to taste by adding more sugar, spices, and/or vanilla extract. Adding some lemon juice will make a tangier apple butter.
To thicken the apple butter, take the cover off the slow cooker, and continue to cook it with the lid off, stirring occasionally.
Once it has reached the desired consistency, pour into jars for storing.
Yield: Around 3-4 cups. Apple butter is most commonly made with soft red apples like Red Delicious or McIntosh. Those varieties are sweet and break down quite easily. That said, you can use pretty much any apples you have on hand or use a variety of sweet apples with more tart ones like Granny Smith.
Apple butter should be stored in the refrigerator and generally keeps well for around 3-4 weeks. When made with a high sugar content, low water content and low ph (tangier, more acidic), it will keep longer than one that is less sweet, runnier, and/or less tart. If you see that it changes in flavor or appearance, toss it.For longer storage, it can also be frozen or canned. When frozen, it should keep well for at least 6 months. I've never personally canned it, but have read that when canned properly, it should preserve well for around 2 years or so. (Maybe more?)
Apple butter is a delicious spread that can be served alone or over butter on slices of bread, rolls, or bagels. It's also delicious as a spread or dip for crackers and cookies. It pairs especially well with other fruit and just about anything sweet, but also cleanses the palate when served with something salty like hard cheeses.Some people use it as a cake filling, others just eat it directly off the spoon.