Thursday, May 15, 2014

Butter Made From Apples

I have a number of wooden tools, each of which consist of a long, straight pole with a shorter piece of wood attached to the one end, at right angle to the long pole. The short pieces of each of these tools have one or more holes bored into them. The long poles of these tools range from just under four feet, to just over seven feet in length.

On a post a while back, I reminisced on my family undertaking the butchering of pigs when I was young. In that post I noted that they often would combine the making of apple butter with the butchering. The wooden tools that I am displaying here were used in the making of apple butter.

To make apple butter, you didn't make a quart at a time; you made gallons at a time. And because you made gallons at a time, it took a number of people to work at it. As noted in the previous post about pig butchering, all the families in the hollow joined in ~ that meant my parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles (because it was only relatives who comprised the families in our little corner of the world). Since it took two or three strong-backed men to suspend our large (forty gallon) iron kettle from a wooden pole tripod and two or three equally strong-backed women to fill the large iron kettle with water, it was best done when everyone was gathered to butcher the pigs than to call them in on another day. While some members of the family were doing the grunt work of getting the kettle hung and filled with water, and making a roaring fire underneath it, others busied themselves with peeling and coring ten or twelve bushels of apples and then chopping them into quarters. I can remember a time or two, as a young boy, being allowed to carry and dump the apple segments into the kettle. (I remember also stealing a bite or two of the apples on the way to the kettle.)

Did I mention that there would be a roaring fire under the kettle?
You had to boil the cut up apples, along with sugar and some cinnamon, in the water in order for their pulp to caramelize and turn into a thick, sticky 'butter'. The mixture in the kettle had to be stirred almost constantly for up to six or eight hours to prevent any of the apple mash from settling to the bottom of the kettle, where it might burn. So how do you stir the contents of a large iron kettle over a long period of time with the heat of a fire emanating from it? The answer is the object of this post ~ a stirring stick at the end of a long pole.

The finished apple butter would be spooned out of the kettle and deposited in glass jars. Each family took a couple jars, and enjoyed the tart, apple flavored jam through the following winter.

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