Every year about this time, my thoughts return to when I was growing up and the family across the road from me always made apple butter.
I loved apple butter time. The night before many of the ladies in our neighborhood would head over to the Patsell's house to cut and peel the apples. The men would sit out on the porch while Mr. Patsell peeled the apples with an old cast iron apple peeler. Then the dishpans of apples would be brought into the house for the women to cut up. Let me tell you, if you have never cut up bushels of apples you can't imagine what your hands look like the next day! They are brown, like an apple gets when it's cut and left out.
Us kids would play "Ghost in the Graveyard" a sort of cross between "Tag" and"Hide and Seek", or sit out in the yard and tell ghost stories, then dare each other to walk to the barn at night! Or sometimes we would climb the apple tree (yes in the dark) and just sit and talk.
The next day was really fun. Even before I woke up Mr. Patsell had made the fire and set the huge copper kettle out. A penny was always place in the bottom of the kettle before the apples and sugar were added. I have no idea why? By the time I got over there the apple butter was well under way. The ladies of the neighborhood would be in the kitchen washing and sterilizing canning jars and fixing lunch. Outside, we would beg to stir the kettle with the huge wooden stirrer. We would always sing a song Aunt Carrie taught us. "Once around the pot, twice through the middle, If you hit the rim, you have to kiss the kettle". Us kids always added "while its hot!) to the end of the song. I can clearly remember Aunt Carrie standing over the kettle, dipper in hand to scoop out any leaves or ash that would go into the pot.
Everyone took turns stirring the apple butter all day long and we ate lunch in shifts, with the women eating last and sitting around talking. then Mr. Patsell would call for a small plate, he would dip out the apple butter and check for consistancy and taste. We would watch anxiously while he tasted. Then he would make the decision whether to cook it longer or call for the jars.
We were so glad when the call for the jars came! That meant that our first taste of the apple butter was soon! Once all the apple butter was poured into the jars, Mr. Patsell would dip out a little and put it in a bowl and hand it to us. We would either eat it with a spoon right on the spot or run in the house and get some bread to eat it on. Nothing ever tasted as good as that hot apple butter.
I really miss those days. Many years later I watched as the applebutter kettle was auctioned off, after Mr. and Mrs. Patsell had died. An antique dealer bought it for $250.00. Yes, I cried.
Now days I still make apple butter, but on a much smaller scale. This is the recipe I got from my Aunt Nadene. It's quick and very good. Not as good as the applebutter from my childhood, but very close.
Aunt Nadene's Quick Apple Butter
8 cups applesauce
5 cups sugar
1/2 cup cinnamon red hots
1/2 cup vinegar.
5 teaspoons cinnamon powder
2-3 drops of Oil of Cloves
Bring applesauce, sugar, red hots, vingegar, and cinnamon powder to a boil in a large pot, (use a large pot because this mixture "pops" really bad). Boil for 15 minutes or until red hots dissolve. Add Oil of Cloves and boil for another 5 minutes. Fill hot, sterilized jars (I use pint) with mixture. Seal and turn upside down to cool. Serve with hot homemade biscuits on a cold winter day! Yum!