Place 3 or 4 small plates in the freezer. Peel, core, and dice or slice the apples. In a large preserving pot over medium-high heat, combine the apples, apple cider or juice, and lemon zest and juice and cover. If the cider does not cover the fruit, add more cider (or water) to cover. Check on the pot occasionally to note the liquid level, as the apples can scorch. When the apples are soft, set the pot aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, pass the fruit through food mill or puree in the bowl of a food processor.
Measure the puree. For every 2 cups of puree, measure out 1 cup of sugar. Because the fruit butter does not have to reach gel point and must simply mound on a spoon, it does not require much sugar and can be tart rather than very sweet.
Return the fruit puree to the pot. Place a baking sheet on the counter near your stove. Heat a kettle of water. Set two stockpots on the stove and fill them with enough water to cover the jars by 1 to 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Sterilize the jars (gently boil for 1 minute) in the water bath. Return the fruit puree to medium heat and add the, sugar, cinnamon and maple syrup.
Gently cook, stirring frequently, until it thickens, approximately 1 hour. It may spit and pop, so make sure that your careful. Wear long pot-holder gloves, too. Bring the water bath back to a boil. If the jars have cooled, warm them in the water bath or in a 200 ° F oven. Simmer the lids in a saucepan of hot water. Place the jars on the baking sheet. The apple butter should mound on a spoon and hold its shape. If it isn’t ready, continue to cook and stir until it does. Remove the pot from the heat. Ladle the apple butter into the jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Wipe the rims clean and set the lids on the mouths of the jars. Twist on the rings.
Using a jar lifter, gently lower the jars into the pots. When the water returns to a boil, decrease the heat to an active simmer, and process the jars for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the jars in the water for 1 to 2 minutes. Using the jar lifter, transfer the jars from the pots to the baking sheet and let sit for at least 6 hours, until cool enough to handle. Check to be sure the jars have sealed (see this page). Label and store the sealed apple butter for 6 months to 2 years. Once open, store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.