General Non-Fiction posted October 23, 2016

This work has reached the exceptional level
The old way of making Apple Butter

Apple Butter Day

by prettybluebirds

Anybody Hungry? Contest Winner 

While growing up in the fifties, my family had a long-standing tradition of making Apple Butter every fall. It was cooked outside over an open fire in a huge copper kettle and stirred with a wooden paddle. Making the Apple Butter took knowledge and patience which my Dad perfected over the years. The ingredients were as follows:

A clear, crisp October day
Gathering of 'helping hands'
40-45 gallons of cider made from one-third each
Delicious, Jonathon, and Grimes Golden apples.
Three and a half to four bushels of King apples
Approximately one-quarter cup of oleo
Approximately three tablespoons of cinnamon

Dad filled the kettle with cider and boiled it down to one-half. He filled it again and repeated the process.

Meanwhile, everyone peeled, cored, and quartered the King apples. We wound up with two full bushels of prepared apples.

Dad added the cut up apples and oleo to the cider after it was properly boiled down. The purpose of the oleo was to keep the mixture from boiling over.

Next, the cinnamon was added

Dad stirred and continued stirring until the Apple Butter reached the correct consistency. It was done when a small amount put on a saucer would not 'separate.' (Watery liquid should no longer separate from the thicker sauce.)

Mom always managed to have warm homemade bread fresh out of the oven when the apple butter was ready.

Today, sixty-some years later, I still vividly remember Apple Butter day. Dad, in his bib overalls and baseball cap (they called them farmer hats back then), would get the old copper kettle out for the once a year debut. My brothers brought the apples and cider up from the basement while my sisters and I carried wood from the nearby woodpile. It took everyone working together to get all the necessary items ready, but we looked forward to it every year.

After Dad started the fire and filled the kettle with cider, we began peeling and coring apples. That was the hardest part of making Apple Butter, but there were enough of us to make relatively short work of it.

We sat around the fire on upturned apple crates peeling apples, telling stories, and cracking jokes. Often, the October air was downright cold, but we didn't notice it too much. The crackling fire and fragrant steam from the boiling cider kept us warm. If our hind ends got too cold, we turned around for a while. When we thought Dad wasn't watching, we got in apple core fights, but if I remember correctly, Dad pitched a few cores of his own. Despite all the shenanigans, the apples were ready by the time the cider boiled down the second time.

Dad added the apples to the boiling cider and proceeded to stir. That was where he needed all his expertise; if the Apple Butter scorched it ruined the whole batch. The fire had to be kept at just the right temperature, and the mixture stirred constantly. Dad never allowed anyone else to do that part of the job. He often sat there for two or three hours and stirred steadily while adding a stick or two of wood to the fire as needed. The rest of us sat around toasting marshmallows until Mom called us in to eat. After she had got us all settled, Mom took Dad's lunch out to him, and they chatted while he ate. Even then, he still stirred with one hand.

In the late afternoon, when Dad figured the mixture to be about ready, he would test it every few minutes for consistency. Meanwhile, Mom got her canning jars ready to go; she sat them in pans of hot water so the boiling Apple Butter wouldn't break the jars as it was ladled into them. All silliness put aside, we helping hands waited anxiously for the magic words, "The apple butter's ready!"

Finally, Dad declared it done. My brothers sprang into action and helped Dad get the kettle off the flames. Then Mom and Dad carefully scooped the hot mixture into the waiting jars while the rest of us screwed lids on as fast as we could. We worked quickly because if the Apple Butter got too cool, the jars wouldn't seal. It wasn't easy, and some of us sported a blister or two from the hot liquid. Still, we hung in there until every drop of that precious Apple Butter was canned. Except, of course, for the full bowl, Mom saved to spread on the warm bread.

The store-bought Apple Butter of today doesn't begin to compare to my Dad's home-made product. We raised the apples, made the cider ourselves, and used only the best in our recipes. There is also another ingredient you won't find in Apple Butter anymore----love.

Anybody Hungry?
Contest Winner


We all enjoyed the Apple Butter making process. It was a break from our regular chores and a fun time for everyone. We all did our share from the youngest to the oldest.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by cleo85 at

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