Tuesday, November 4, 2008

150 Year Tradition: Making Apple Butter and a Give Away


A Taste of Autumn - Home Made Apple Butter


Smearing apple butter on a hot buttered biscuit will never be the same for me again.

I always thought that apple butter was just apple sauce with a dash more cinnamon and a little more time on the stove. I had no idea that "a little more time" meant 10 hours of brewing in a 150-year-old copper cauldron.

At least that's how the Allen clan of Sardis, West Virginia, do it. They whip up 150 pints of apple butter every year as a fund raiser for a local church youth group. Three days and dozens of hands go into making a jar of the bread spread. Start with a day of picking local wild apples. Spend another day, slicing, chopping and cooking down the apples. Finish off in the cauldron, where the apples are mixed with sugar and cinnamon oil. That final day stretches from 6 am to 6 pm.


Double, double, toil but no trouble: the 150-year-old copper cauldron was first used by cousin Nathan's great-great grandfather. Now seven generations have stirred the pot.


The key to good apple butter is constant stirring so that the bottom doesn't stick. This year, the Allens retired the original 150-year-old paddle and replaced it with this one, hand crafted by a sixth generationer.


The finished product is scooped into sterilized jars.


Nathan's son Travis (on the right)is the great-great-great grandson of the copper pot's original owner. He and a friend retire the pot until its next 10-hour workout.

Now when I spread some apple butter on my biscuit or toast, I'll think of crisp air, fallen leaves, copper cauldrons, a labor of love and a 150-year tradition.

Leave a comment if you think you deserve to win a pint of home-made apple butter. The winner will be randomly selected.

My brother and I did a taste comparison of the 2007 and 2008 batches. This year's is as complex as a fine wine and a definite winner. You can taste the sweet, tangy and cinnamony hot components in each luscious bite. Now could someone bake me up a batch of biscuits?




39 comments:

altadenahiker said...

I think the first person to post a comment should win. Huh, well look at that. Nice, nice post, made me feel all warm and cozy.

Petrea said...

I think Altadenahiker should win it. But I still like the post.

Trish said...

good G-d that is a lot of work!

I admire anyone who goes through that sort of work year after year---and y'all for doing it as a fundraiser! Wow!

Making me yearn for a nice warm piece of home made bread to put it on!

Ronni Gordon said...

What beautiful photos!

Makes me want to have some too.

I'm still having trouble getting more than one photo onto a post. Wrote you an e-mail about it. Feeling kinda techno-disabled. Can you tell me how you do it?

I think the fourth person to post a comment should win.

altadenahiker said...

If you take off your last comment, Ronni Gordon, I'll explain. Above the the area where you browse and select the picture, you'll see a link that says something like Add Another Photo. Click here and you'll get s second browse link.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Oooh, that looks luscious. I've bought apple butter in stores but they've always been way too sweet. Wanna trade a jar of that for a jar of my homemade chili sauce? :)

I always love your anecdotes about the generations in WVa. Well, except I don't think those are part of the "two Virginias" so you don't count. ;)

Troy Corley said...

I'll bake you some of my Southern buttermilk biscuits or sweet cornbread based on many generations of family recipes (honey, I may have been raised in NYC but my roots are stuck in grits!)in exchange for a taste of that sweet apple butter!

Heather said...

this looks delicious, and the photos are amazingly beautiful!

James said...

The one who salivates the most should totally win.

That looks amazing.

Susan C said...

Home made chilli sauce? Home made biscuits or cornbread? You make me wish the selection process wasn't "random." And I wish I had more apple butter for swapping.

Twin Tables said...

I have been obsessed with apple butter since I was a small child. My grandmother made it but I am not so blessed. My first attempt at making apple butter did not go well. I guess I need a cool paddle. Thanks for a great story!

smörgåsbroad said...

I was born in WV and this post warmed my little heart! Also made me a bit jealous because I just tried to make apple butter (with local Norwegian apples!) and utterly failed.

AndreaDomingas said...

I waaaaaaaant apple butter! How nice to learn how it was done! Please send it to Germany! ;D
XOXO

sarah @ Sweet Endeavors said...

Yummo! I never thought I liked apple butter until the other day. My friend brought over a jar and a sleeve of ritz crackers...heaven! It was like taking a bite of Christmas!

Nate-n-Annie said...

I would love to have a taste of this apple butter. The one at Gizdich Ranch was incredible.

gail said...

This tradition seems to speak to the creative nature in all of us.What a wonderful use of the fruit, even apples that are not in great shape. I am sure it taste great on just about any bread and can also be used with meats as a great condiment!

I want to taste some...

Do Not Disturb said...

Because I remember driving down the highway in rural Southwest VA and WVA and watching people cook apple butter over and open flame, I deserve to win this for the memories, thank you for the memories, I think I'll make a batch.

Susan C said...

I hadn't thought of pairing the apple butter with meats, but it's a great idea. Via tastespotting, I found a post that described a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with apple butter. Doesn't that sound good?

I've got to give that a try.

Susan C said...

So nice to hear from two people with West Virginia ties. I live in the LA area now, but try to make it back "home" twice a year.

Allie said...

I don't really know about "deserving," per se, but I'd like to try it. I'd especially enjoy "seeing" the differences between this luscious-sounding product and the pumpkin butter I made earlier in the season.

Chris said...

When I was 12, my father was transferred to WVa with the US Department of Agriculture. We didn't know what to expect and the posting turned out to be wonderful. We have many apple butter memories of this time, too. One of the best is smearcase, a spread comprised of equal parts apple butter and cottage cheese. Sound iffy, but if the apple butter is spicy, it's sublime. I'm way grown up now, living in NC, making my apple butter with NC apples and cider.

pasadenaadjacent.com said...

I have no apple butter memories. Why is this? my mother's from the Ozarks.. I have hill people roots. They fry everything (even cow brains) and salt apples but don't make them into butter. Chicken and dumplings! yes and occasionally my aunt Wilma makes a huge pot full. Gross to look at, heaven to eat.

Susan C said...

Oh, and Sarah, I'll have to try it with Ritz. (They used to be my fave, but I have't had one for years.)

Chris, I've seen other recipes that use just apples and cider and spices, and I really like that concept.

PA, "Aunt Wilma" does sound like a good country name. My grandma Opal was also famous for her chicken and dumplings.

Thanks to everyone for the lovely comments.

AH, you have some competition.

Piper Robert said...

Hey, Sis. I have to add my 2 cents about pairing apple butter with other foods.

I'm traditional and conservative (one who tends to maintain existing views), so the thought of apple butter with something other than a biscuit gives me pause. As you described the taste test we did, I'm a stand alone type guy with apple butter. Like fine wine, it is best enjoyed solo. Yes, I know, chefs cook with wine.

Having said that, I'm sure you'll steer me in another direction with your creativity and daring. Let us know about some of your experimentation. I've loved every recommendation, e.g., Thai, Indian, sushi.

That batch the Allen's made is fantastic. I think I'll call Nathan and see if there's any remaining for purchase.

My final thought, I'm not ready to put 1995 Château Pétrus in my venison stew. : )

Love ya!

p.s. Are family members eligible for the prize? How'd I do? I'll pay postage.

Susan C said...

Let's buy up any apple butter that Nathan has left over.

Trish said...

hey, that'd be a concept---if they have any left over, provide a link so we could BUY OUR OWN and donate to the cause!

That way, we'd not only get the DELICIOUS taste, but help out those who need it!

Still Jonesing for some apple butter, but I suspect a trip over the hill to Gizdich Ranch is in order for me.

I did a homemade try at something else the other day---lemon curd, without dairy for me. OMG! Do you know it goes with just about EVERYTHING? yummm!

Susan C said...

Yum! As soon as my Meyer's lemons ripen, I want to try to make some of that lemon curd.

Jo said...

mememe! That stuff looks so very good :)And the post was very nice and made me smile too :)

Susan C said...

We have a winner!

I used the random integer selecter at www.random.com. The #6 was randomly selected, which means that Wandering Chopsticks (one of my first and favorite food blog "discoveries" a year ago) is the WINNER.

I'm glad that the computer picked so I can't be accused of favoritism or extortion (for the chilli sauce).

Piper Robert said...

Enjoy the apple butter, WC.

hope said...

dear susan,perhaps those of us who are interested could purchase the apple butter and add to the money for the group? kinda cold in the northeast... warmly,hope

Anonymous said...

I don't deserve it, but I want to win one b/c my dad thinks WV apple butter is one of the best things on earth to eat and since I don't have a 150 year old copper cauldron, or lots of hands, I'm surely not making him some!

Tara In VA

Anonymous said...

oops! I posted without reading all the entries and realizing it's already gone. I'll search out some VA apple butter for him instead.

Tara in VA

Susan C said...

Hope, I'll see if Nathan has any apple butter left.

Tara, I wish I had known that your dad was a big WV apple butter fan. I'd have bought a jar for him.

Piper Robert said...

I talked to Nathan yesterday. The Allens are sold out of their apple butter.

We better get on next year's list.

Susan C said...

Sold out already? That's good news for the youth group, bad news for the rest of us.

I'm definitely going to time my fall visit to WV next year during apple butter making day. Too bad the airlines now charge $25 to check baggage. Otherwise, I'd bring home a case.

Maris said...

Yumm...apple butter is delicious. I've actually never had fresh apple butter before but it looks like so much fun to make!

Susan C said...

Maris, I had a blast taking part in the festivities. Of course, my contribution was a few stirs, a lot of pictures and a lot of eating of the food families brought.

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