Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as "The
Right Way" to make apple butter. There are as many variations
on the recipe as there are chefs who make it.
In late September, sweet golden delicious apples are the main
ingredient. By Election Day, late tart apples are ready for use.
Many cooks are partial to powdered spices, while others swear by
cinnamon and cloves in oil form. Traditional recipes use three
pounds of sugar per gallon of apple butter. Colonial cooks added
West Indian molasses to apple butter, while health-conscious cooks
today make it with no sugar at all. Some cooks recommend using
cider to cook down the apple snitz, while others add plain water.
Some old-timers will tell you that adding a copper penny to the
bottom of the kettle will let you know if the butter is burning.
Others claim the penny scratches the kettle finish and should be
Luckily, there are some common grounds and truths that everyone
agrees on. Most importantly, no one makes apple butter alone. It's
a group activity, whether that group be family, friends, club
members, or strangers passing by the kettle during the Apple
There are other things to remember about apple butter:
No one can pass by a boiling kettle full of apple butter without
stopping to take a stir. There is always lots of good food and
better chit-chat around the kettle. Not inviting someone back to
make apple butter the following year is a sure way to lose a
friend. And, as Miss Eliza Leslie said in the 1848 edition of her
classic cookbook, "It is not worthwhile to prepare apple
butter on a small scale."
Making apple butter the "old timey way" -- over an
open fire -- requires copper-lined kettles. A long-handled stirrer
with a spoon-bill head, usually made from poplar, is also standard
equipment. All day stirring assures no burning or sticking. "Twice
around the kettle and once across" is the old adage popular
among apple butter connoisseurs.
Using corn cobs or loaf bread to clean out kettles protect them
from being scratched. Hardwood fires make coals rather than flame,
so butter cooks slowly, not burning, sticking, or splashing over
the edge. It's no secret that boiling apple butter splashed on
bare skin is painful.
Putting sugar into the butter is called "adding the money."
And, to keep the stirring arm going, some suggest pouring a glass
of peach brandy into every stirrer twice a day.
How it's Done
Making apple butter is a simple task. On Day One, you snitz.
Take ten to twelve bushels of apples of your choice, set up on the
porch with an apple peeler, several sharp paring knives, and a
collection of bowls and pots. Set to work. Wash, whir, peel, and
thud. Stab, quarter, snip, and plop into bowls. Throw thrashings
away. By late afternoon, enough snitz (the peeled, quartered, and
cored fruit) is done.
On Day Two, fire up the kettles with a bin of firewood nearby.
Add liquid to the kettles full of snitz and push the apples
around. Push, slurp, slosh, and stir to keep the ingredients from
sticking. The stirring continues all day long. Rock back and
forth, slightly lift, then push down and around. The rhythm's in
the work. And watch out, because you'll probably end up getting a
kettleful of smoke in your eyes.
The apples will eventually break down into sauce, volcanic
bubbles boiling and bursting. Several hours later, the time will
come to add sugar. Finally, add spices, darkening the butter to a
deep red like the inside of the kettle.
When apple butter stands firm, it's time to fill the cleaned and
boiled jars. Ladle out boiling apple butter, screw on lids, and
move as a team -- dipping, filling, screwing, and packing. The
final stage is cleaning the kettles and scraping off the crust of
baked-on butter around the rim.
The rewards for this hard work are multiple: eating spicy, thick
butter on a slice of bread on a cold winter day or giving a jar or
two as a prized Christmas gift. Most of all, however, the joy is
in the doing.
The tradition of making apple butter brings together people in a
spirit of warmth and cooperation. There is love in every sticky
Apple Cider: A Historic American
History records that the Celts of Britain greeted their Roman
conquerors with toasts of apple cider. American colonists made
cider preparation a priority task in early settlements. Brought to
this country by colonists who grafted their domesticated apples
onto the branches of the wild crab apple trees native to the New
World, cider reached its peak in popularity and consumption during
the 19th century. It was a favorite of rural Americans and the
target of temperance crusaders, who regarded it as an evil drink.
Today, apple cider is pressed wherever apples are grown throughout
the temperate zones of the world. Principal producers of cider are
France, England, Holland, and the United States. The drink is
still very popular and is a tasty source of vitamin C, a regulator
of the body pH, and a purifying agent, excellent for the treatment
of kidney and gall stones.
Around West Virginia, thousands of gallons of fresh pressed
local apple cider are sold to visitors at fall festivals
throughout the state each year. The golden drink is carried off in
jugs, cups, and bottles by throngs of pleased customers. Some of
this cider is consumed before the week is out, some is left to
ferment more to give the cider that alcoholic punch, and some is
frozen and thawed for use during the cold winter months to
recapture the tangy tastes of autumn.
The production of apple cider in West Virginia has changed
considerably during the last century. According to cider makers at
Applejack Orchard in Berkeley Springs, the procedure for making
the drink is a simple one. The best cider comes from a blend of
apples: sweet Macintosh, golden and red delicious added to tart
yorks and crabapples. The fruit is washed, ground into a mash
called pomace, then pressed between layers of
cloth-covered wooden plates. The juice is then strained and jugged
with no additives or pasteurization, producing the familiar sweet
cider taste. Left to age in barrels with yeast or sugar added,
cider eventually turns hard and alcoholic -- the type commonly
available in Europe.
It takes one bushel of apples to produce two to three gallons of
cider. In West Virginia, cider is pressed weekly during the season
between September through November, supplying local residents and
food markets with thousands of gallons of fresh cider in jugs and
And not only is cider a healthy and refreshing drink, it's also
an ingredient in many recipes. It can be used for flavor while
soaking beans, basting roasts, and as an accent to squash, fish,
rice dishes, and pea and onion soups. When cider is heated it
becomes thick, producing cider syrup, a tasty addition to
cornbread or barbecue sauces. Even the pomace left over when the
juice has been squeezed out has its uses as animal feed or garden
Cider is a popular, healthy, and versatile drink for all ages
and kinds of people. Apple cider, as well, as apple butter, is
available each year at the Apple Butter Festival on Columbus Day
Weekend in October. Drink up and enjoy!
- You found this recipe on 1st Traveler's Choice Internet