making apple butter

Apple Butter

An apple sat on the railroad track,
its heart was all a flutter.
Around the bend came number 10,
and smoosh smoosh, Apple butter.

It's almost fall .... well, it's 96 instead of 106 degrees today, and gz over at her blog, "ook?!" got me thinking about apple butter in her Say Cheese post.

One of my best memories of visiting my grandmother in West Virginia was the day she and my great-aunt Violet made apple butter - OUTSIDE!

These two ladies COULD be my grandmother Ruth and her sister Violet, but they are not. Apple butter making was an all day affair starting early in the morning. My grandfather built the fire out in the back garden and laid in a stack of wood to keep it burning nice and steady. He set the tripod up over the fire awaiting the large iron kettle. Once his tasks were complete, the ladies sent him away - this was their pleasure. They started the morning early, peeling and coring bushels of apples. I suspect the apples came from trees on their father's farm which backed up to my grandparents' property. The first batch of the season!

Once peeled and cored, the apples are placed in the large iron pot and seasoned with sugar and spices. My grandmother used a lot of cinnamon and clove in her apple butter plus lemon juice for that yummy sweet /tart flavor. The secret of apple butter is slooow cooking over a low fire for HOURS with constant stirring to keep it from burning (like a custard or pudding). A large wooden paddle was used to stir the apples. Everyone took turns, including me! I think I was 9 or 10 yrs old at the time. Too unwieldly with a knife, but I could stir. Can you imagine how their arms must have ached ???

Meanwhile, my mother and aunt were in the canning kitchen (located in the basement of the house) sterilizing the jars and rims and lids for the apple butter. I'd regularly make trips back and forth from the cooking site to the canning site just to see what was happening. Occasionally, I'd be allowed to throw another stick onto the fire. You knew the apple butter was done when its color turned a deep rich brown, and it was thick and smooth. My grandmother never used a blender or food mill to smooth her apple butter. She did it all by the constant stirring. It was nearing dusk when they decided the batch was ready for canning.

Grandpa's job was to take the iron pot down to the canning kitchen. All the women hustled and bustled to ladle the apple butter into jars and then boil the jars to seal the lids. YUMMY! I loved apple butter best on toast, but it was also great on grandmother's homemade biscuits.

Today, with the advent of slow cookers, you can make your own apple butter indoors, no stoking the fire, no constant stirring. I suppose this makes it easier on the makers, but I will always cherish being a part of the 'old-fashioned' way of making apple butter. Just like my great-grandmother and her mother and aunts used to make it!



gz said...

and all the better for being made together

Adullamite said...

Home grown foods the best, home cooking the best!