In late October, we picked up 6 bushels of apples at an orchard in Virginia, the end of the season. That would have been the ideal time to make apple butter, but we had to wait until Thanksgiving to get the family together. So they sat in the cellar, which is something most old farms around here have, a cool stone room cut into the hill. Sadly there was quite a bit of rotting between the end-of-season produce and the suboptimal storage.
On Thanksgiving day, while some of us (me) cooked and cleaned and set up, the rest peeled apples and pared off the peels and prepared.
Thankfully we had a large and helpful crew, so within a few hours it was all done.
The next day, some of us were up at dawn to clean the old copper kettle with vinegar and salt.
Then building the fire:
Adding a half gallon of cider, and then the first apples:
And then, stirring. All day, with a long wooden paddle.
(Run to the donut shop for sustenance . . Grammy and I cooked up a big breakfast for the crew as well)
And then you add more apples, and stir, and scrape down the sides, and add wood to the fire, and mill about playing cornhole and shooting the basketball while other people stir, and debate the consistency. When it gets to be a nice color and texture, add 20-25 pounds of sugar. When you're a half-hour from taking it off, add oil of cinnamon, an incredibly powerful spice, 3/4 to 1 tsp for what turned out to be 11 1/2 gallons. I had the photos in order but I'm tired of trying to sort them so here they are:
Lots of good cousin time:
The oil of cinnamon measuring requires lots of opinions . .
Finally, the apple butter is declared ready, and we set up the assembly line with sterilized jars and canning lids. Lots of supervision for perfect sealing.
The end of the day, the crew, and 11 1/2 gallons of deliciousness.
Then there is the clean up.
And a meal with corn bread and fresh rolls to do the tasting!
This is a family tradition that I love, and we are thankful that the November weather held out with warm days, that the apples mostly survived storage, that we had so much help, and that we can taste the goodness of the earth for many days to come, and share that joy with others.