Warm sweaters, crisp mountain air, and sipping a warm cup of chai tea while looking at the trees turning colors of a beautiful golden patchwork quilt… seriously if you haven’t visited the Blue Ridge Mountains during leaf season you are truly missing something magical! It’s fall, and when cooler weather rolls through the mountains we know it is time for our late season canning rituals to capture the energy of these moments.
Fall is often one of my favorite times to harvest, digging into the cold ground to get those beautiful roots. It reminds me that even if we don’t see change within ourselves that magic medicine is happening.
It is also time for our root vegetable harvest and planning those special gifts for our beloveds utilizing the harvest of the year. One of my favorite recipes for this season is my chai spiced sweet potato apple butter! It is a twist on an heirloom recipe to add some love to biscuits, oatmeal, and pancakes. Think warm sweater of yumminess in your breakfast on chilly mornings!
Grab a cup of spiced cider or chai tea and let’s get started with my homemade apple butter recipe!
In the United States, most sweet potatoes are primarily grown in North Carolina (my home state) and Louisiana. They are at their best in fall and early winter. Sweet potatoes are a fall crop because they take 100–150 days to mature, after harvest it may take up to eight weeks of storage for them to get sweet like we love them.
Sweet Potatoes Versus Yams
I have had many debates over the dinner table about sweet potatoes versus yams. Sweet potatoes are not yams! They are two totally unrelated botanical species, although similar in shape. The true sweet potato Ipomoea batatas is a vine related to the morning glory both in the Convolvulacea family and is native to South America; the yam is from the Dioscorea family, native to Africa and Asia.
Sweet potatoes contain Vitamin A — between 500 percent and 700 percent of your recommended daily intake in one cup. Vitamin A absorbed into the body with dietary fat is also fat-soluble, meaning that any amount not needed immediately is absorbed and stored in fat tissue or the liver. Vitamin A is a vitamin necessary for healthy eyes, immune system, skin, and is also a powerful antioxidant. Sweet potatoes also contain fiber, excellent amounts of Vitamins C and B-6, manganese, potassium and several other vitamins and minerals. They are even good sources of iron and calcium.
Chai Recipe for Chai Spiced Sweet Potato Apple Butter
Chai tea is rich in antioxidants, has anti-inflammatory properties, helps boost the immune system, and aids in digestion. You can use your favorite chai tea blend or make your own with a few herbs and spices!
Ingredients you’ll need…
- 2 teaspoons ground cardamom or 1 tablespoon cardamom pods
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoon ground cloves or 4 clove pods
- 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 4–6 teaspoons ground ginger or 1–2 inches of grated fresh ginger (use less if you don’t like spicy)
- 2 star anise
- ½ teaspoon of spicebush (optional)
- 2 tablespoons of yaupon holly or black tea (can omit if you want caffeine free)
- Bring 2 ½ cups water to a boil and add 2 ½ teaspoons of the tea blend to the water.
- Remove pot from heat, cover and allow it to steep for an hour.
- Strain out the herbs, so you are ready to add your tea to the Chai Spiced Sweet Potato Apple Butter recipe below.
Chai Spiced Sweet Potato Apple Butter
This Chai Spiced Sweet Potato Apple Butter makes for a wonderful fall treat to enjoy and share with loved ones.
Supplies you’ll need…
- 4 half-pint mason jars Immersion blender or regular blender
- 2 large pots
Ingredients you’ll need…
- 4 whole sweet potatoes or 4 cups diced peeled sweet potatoes (orange or purple)
- 4 cups diced peeled granny smith fresh apples (or your favorite apple)
- 2 cups chai tea
- 3 cups apple cider
- ¾ –1 cup packed dark brown or raw sugar (can substitute your favorite sweetener)
- 3 tablespoons of black strap molasses (optional)
- 2 cups of strained chai tea (directions above in chai tea recipe)
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean scraped
- Juice of 1 lemon
Stove Top and Oven Method:
- Clean and then sterilize your canning jars — wash them and then put them in a pot with water covering them. Bring the water to a boil and leave them in the boiling water for at least 10 minutes. (See below for more information.)
- If you want to roast your sweet potatoes for extra flavor, you can clean your whole sweet potatoes and wrap them in aluminum foil. Bake these sweet potatoes at 400 degrees F for 1 hour or until tender.
- (Note: If you don’t want to roast your sweet potatoes, you can also just peel and cube 4 cups worth of sweet potatoes and add them with apples to cook on the stove top. Cooking on the stove top can take up to 4 hours or until tender.)
- Now peel and dice the apples.
- While your sweet potatoes are baking, combine diced apples, ½ cup of tea (save the other 1 ½ cups) ), sweetener, and lemon juice in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the apples are tender.
- Allow sweet potatoes to cool and remove their skin.
- Add sweet potatoes to the apple mixture and add in the rest of your chai tea. Now cook this all together for 10 minutes over low heat.
- Add vanilla and sweeten to taste if needed.
- Use your food immersion blender and puree until everything is smooth in texture or place into your blender and add more liquid if needed to achieve a smooth butter. (Be careful of this hot mixture and make sure your blender or food processor can accommodate the heat.)
- Fill your ½ pint mason jars leaving ½ inch head space at the top of the jars. Then add lids to cap the jars.
- Add your jars to your empty large pot. Fill up your pot of water at least two inches above the jars and bring to a full boil — process jars in the hot water bath for 15–20 minutes.
- Carefully remove jars with tongs and place on the towel-lined counter. Wait to hear the pop of each jar as it cools to make sure they have been properly sealed. You can also press the tops of the jar after it cools, and if the tops don’t move then they are sealed. Return to the water bath for additional time if needed. And enjoy your beautiful jars of apple butter!
Please note: roasting the sweet potatoes is optional for extra flavor. You can also just peel and cube the sweet potatoes, and add them with apples to cook on the stove top. Cooking on the stove top can take up to 4 hours or until tender.
Slow Cooker Method:
- Add all ingredients into your crock pot and cook on low for 10–12 hours until everything is tender and the liquid is reduced down.
- Turn your crock pot off and start at step 8 above.
Instant Pot Method:
- Add all ingredients into your Instant Pot (add vanilla last after it is cooked.)
- High pressure steam all of your ingredients together for 15 minutes and then let the Instant Pot do a natural release.
- Now start at step 8.
Yield: 4 half-pint jars
Canning Your Gifts
When canning, it is important to clean and sanitize your jars and lids (allow them to boil in hot water for 10 minutes). For more information on sterilizing jars, you can check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s guide to sterilizing jars.
Please note, there is a debate whether or not sweet potatoes should be canned. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, they do not recommend canning butters due to low acidity, not being able to reach high enough temperatures (except with high pressure canning), and risk of botulism. Do your own research and decide. I add in the apples to increase the acidity, or you can omit the sweet potatoes and just use apples for an apple butter.
My grandmother, the elders I have talked to, myself, and many chefs I know that do can, do it with no issues. I do not make large amounts at a time except to give gifts. I put this in to give you all the information and make your own decision.
On my Chai Spiced Sweet Potato Apple Butter gift tags I write, “Use within 2 months and refrigerate after opening.” It is good in the fridge for up to 3 weeks, but it won’t last that long! I also make this right before the holidays so it is as fresh as possible!
Benefits of Coriander Seeds
Coriander seeds are high in fiber, and they are a great source of antioxidants, vitamins C, B, K, iron, and calcium. They are also rich in micronutrients, such as zinc, manganese, magnesium, and copper. Coriander seeds and leaves are used in Ayurvedic Medicine to treat digestive issues.
Benefits of Black Peppercorn
Black pepper is an excellent source for numerous vitamins and minerals. It not only adds flavor but aids your body in absorbing nutrients. It has carminative properties also, which can help to reduce discomfort and gas buildup in your intestines.
Benefits of Cardamom
Cardamom is an excellent digestive aid, and its antioxidant and diuretic properties may lower blood pressure. Cardamom is rich in compounds that give it its anti-inflammatory properties.
Benefits of Clove
Clove has powerful analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, making it an excellent natural remedy for pain relief. Cloves contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals, so using whole or ground cloves to add flavor to your food can provide some important nutrients.
Benefits of Star Anise
Star anise is used to support healthy digestion, from bloating to loss of appetite. It is also known for its antimicrobial and antiviral properties.
Benefits of Cinnamon
This beautiful warming spice is high in antioxidants, helps lower blood sugar levels, and aids in circulation.
Benefits of Ginger
Ginger is my go-to tea for digestion issues, and it also contains antimicrobial properties that can help to fight off illnesses.
Benefits of Black Tea or Yaupon Holly
Black tea is good for heart health, full of antioxidants, and can improve focus. Yaupon holly has similar benefits as black tea and is native to America, being our original caffeine drink. Yaupon contains theobromine, a compound found primarily in cocoa that has been well-studied for its ability to support brain function.
Benefits of Spicebush
Spicebush is not common in chai tea. I found this on a plant walk and learned it has a rich history in Appalachian herbal medicine. The leaves, buds, and new growth twigs can all be made into a tea that is warming and stimulating, that helps with both digestion and circulation.
How to Learn More About Cooking with Herbs
If you want to learn more about food as medicine, you can check out LearningHerbs’ Food as Medicine class. Created by herbalist Todd Caldecott, Food as Medicine is a 10-part audio series taught solely by Todd that dispels many natural foods myths and delivers a simple, practical guide to healing with food.
You can find Food as Medicine on HerbMentor, LearningHerbs’ affordable online platform for herbal education. Try HerbMentor for just $1.
Here are some frequently asked questions about apple butter…
What’s the difference between homemade applesauce and apple butter?
Applesauce is a quick press method where apple butter is combined with spices and requires a longer cooking time to get thicker. Similar to the difference between tomato sauce and paste.
What is apple butter made of?
Slow cooked apples, warming spices, and love.
How long will homemade apple butter keep?
As I noted above, I recommend people use homemade sweet potato apple butter within 2 months and refrigerate after opening. The apple butter will be good in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
If you are making an apple butter without sweet potatoes, since apples are more acidic, home-canned apple butter has a shelf life of about one year. If you don’t can the apple butter you can store it, in the refrigerator for up to 1 month, or freeze for up to 1 year.