A few weeks ago, I went to a local apple orchard and came home with 50 pounds of apples. In the weeks since, I've made applesauce, french apple ice cream, an apple pie and some delicious apple butter.
Apple butter could not be easier, as long as you have a nice autumn day free of any obligations. Basically, you throw a bunch of chopped apples into a pot (seeds, skin and stems included) with some cider or apple juice and cook them until they are soft and mushy. Run them through a food mill or chinois, add some brown sugar, a pinch of salt, some lemon juice and zest and the spices of your choice. Then you cook and cook and cook.
Basically you are browning and caramelizing the apples while evaporating the liquid to get a thick and buttery consistency. It can take a while. Hours. Stir often - the more you stir the faster the butter will be done. You have to be very careful, however, as the sugary mixture is extremely hot and will burn you in an instant. It also tends to bubble and glop, so you will need to cook the mixture in a large, deep pot and play with your stove to find a nice medium heat that doesn't splash too much. You may want to wear gloves.
About 1/2 a cup of cider or juice and a cup of brown sugar for every two pounds of apples should be enough, but it depends on how sweet you like your butter. As for the spices and lemon, play with them as you wish. I used cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, a bit of chinese five-spice powder and a pinch of mace. Start with small amounts and taste after you add them.
It's almost impossible to mess apple butter up. As long as you are patient enough to let it brown and thicken, you'll see great results.
Can them according to your preferred method or follow these directions from the Ball Company.