My mother-in-law’s family has a rich tradition of making homemade apple butter in a big copper kettle. As it was our first year back in the country, we thought it would be fun to have our city friends up for a weekend with a little cultural experience, if you will.
The whole process starts very early on a Saturday morning when someone (not me!) fires up the heat source and begins cooking down several gallons of fresh apple cider.
Once the cider has been reduced to about half of the volume, things start to get a little cray cray. A large stockpot of homemade applesauce (made with local golden delicious apples and cider) is added, followed by several cups of granulated sugar. Then, according to the lore of the apple butter masters, one must keep stirring the mixture AT ALL TIMES until the desired consistency is achieved. This way, the sauce doesn’t burn and everyone’s day isn’t ruined. The stirring is done with this long, wooden apparatus, pictured below, and the passing off between stirrers can be compared to an intense relay. Or maybe it just feels like that to me.
When the optimal apple butter thickness has been achieved, the kettle is removed from heat and a sprinkle (not more than a teaspoon) of ground cinnamon is mixed in. An assembly line is formed and the piping hot delicious goodness is ladled into clean jars, topped with lids, and allowed to seal.
When it was all said and done, it had taken us about 5 hours from start to finish to create this tasty topping. I made a brunch for everyone to enjoy and there was plenty of hot coffee and donuts to fuel us through the rest of the day. A fun time was had by all and I am hoping we can extend this lovely tradition into the future and continue to include both our families and our friends.