Place the apples and the cider in a large stainless-steel pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. If additional liquid is necessary, add water in 2-tablespoon increments. Remove from the heat.
Next, either press the cooked apple mixture through a food mill or fine-meshed sieve, puree it in a food processor once slightly cooled, or use an immersion blender and puree the mixture in the pot. If using a food processor or blender, blend just until smooth, but not runny.
Once pureed, return the mixture to the pot, add the sugar and spices, stir to combine fully, and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, until the apple butter thickens and clings to the back of a spoon. Stir often to prevent mixture from sticking. Remove the pot from the heat.
While the apple butter cooks, fill a canner or large stockpot with water, place 4 to 5 half-pint jars inside, and set over medium-high heat. Bring just to the boiling point.
Using a jar lifter, remove the hot jars from the canner and place on top of a kitchen cloth on the counter. With the help of a canning funnel, pack the apple butter into the jars, reserving 1⁄4-inch headspace.
Use a spatula or wooden chopstick to remove any trapped air bubbles around the interior circumference of the jar. Wipe the rims clean with a damp cloth. Place on the lids and screw bands, tightening only until fingertip-tight.
Again using a jar lifter, slowly place the filled jars into the canner. Be sure that there’s at least 1 inch of water above the top of the jars. Bring to a boil, and then process for 10 minutes, starting the timer once the water is at a full, rolling boil. Adjust for altitude as needed.
Ashley English is the author of several books, including Southern from Scratch: Pantry Essentials and Down-Home Recipes and A Year of Picnics: Recipes for Dining Well in the Great Outdoors. She lives in Candler, North Carolina, with her husband, two sons, and a menagerie of chickens, dogs, cats, and bees. Smallmeasure.com