Prepare the apples: wash the apples first, then using a sharp knife, cut around the core and discard it. This recipe can be prepared with or without the peel. Chop the apples into small, bite-sized pieces and place them into a large, cast-iron pan. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan: sugar, vinegar, water (or juice or sweeter spread), and spices. Use a spoon to toss the apples until they’re well coated.
Cover the pan with a lid and heat the apples over medium heat until they come up to a simmer. Once simmering, reduce the heat to low and cook for 18 to 20 minutes, until the apples are super soft and tender.
Remove the apples from the heat, then use a blender, food processor or immersion blender and puree the apples for a few minutes until they are super smooth. If you are including the peel, puree for a few extra minutes until the peel is no longer visible.
Return the pureed apples into the pan. Cook over low heat for approximately 40 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the apple puree is reduced and thickened. If the puree starts to bubble too much, reduce the heat further and cover with a splatter screen.
For storing the apple butter: this spread can be enjoyed immediately or stored in the refrigerator. Sanitize two to three small jars with boiling water and let them air dry. Transfer the prepared apple butter into the jars, seal them with a lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Recipe makes a little bit over 2 cups of apple butter.