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Lauren blog profile
By Lauren Hughes
Like many Missourians, I have a deeply rooted love for autumn. Something about those brisk fall days and brightly colored leaves awakens me. Each fall I attempt to experience as many autumn activities as I can: drinking apple cider, eating chili and caramel apples, sitting around a bonfire, carving pumpkins, and enjoying fall festivals.
My fiancé’s family, however, has a wonderful fall tradition. When Jim was younger, his parents used to throw apple butter parties. Family and friends were invited to help make a batch of sweet and delicious apple butter, a spread of concentrated spiced apples thicker than applesauce. A centuries-old tradition, making apple butter was originally used as a way to preserve apples for future use.
Because his family hasn’t made apple butter in many years, we decided to bring back this tradition. After all, we now had a large group of friends more than happy to help make apple butter if it meant they got to take some home.
So this past weekend, we laboriously peeled, sliced, stirred, and canned. It started on Friday. Everyone gathered to peel and slice nearly five bushels of Jonathan apples, sitting around the table chatting as we went. Later that evening, after stuffing ourselves full of potluck dishes, we sat around a bonfire in the cool dark night.
On Saturday, another fire was built in the dark at 5:30 a.m. Jim’s dad brought out the copper kettle, dumped our sliced apples and some apple cider into it, and began stirring. A while back, he built a paddle to stir the apple butter with, made of curly maple with a spruce handle.
As people woke up or drove back to the farm to join us for the day, we took turns stirring the apples in the copper pot. From 6 a.m. or so until 3:30 p.m., we stirred. And stirred. And then stirred some more. The goal was concentrate the apples so that there wasn’t hardly any water left. Then, we added cheese cloth sacks of spices: cinnamon and star anise. When finished, we spent another hour or so canning all of the apple butter, filling mason jars, cleaning lids and rings, and boiling the jars until they were properly sealed.
I couldn’t have been happier with the tradition of making apple butter. Sitting around a fire with a large pot full of spiced apples in the cool fall air was perfect, especially since it was cloudy and rained a bit.
And now, I have jars of apple butter to spread on anything my heart desires.
Don't miss the 2011 Apple Butter Festival in Kimmswick, held October 29 and 30.