We made our apple butter in steps. We made the sauce in advance, some last week and some 3 weeks ago, and put it in the freezer until we could get a date set for the cooking down. We settled on this Saturday and of course the rain moved in as soon as it heard the news. But with Pam's canopy and a little ingenuity we moved ahead.
The fire gave us fits for a while; we had the wood covered but it still was not easy to get a good hot fire for a little while. We leaned some tin against the side of the kettle for a while and that seemed to help the fire get its breath, and then we were really cooking. Daughter-in-law Sandy washed jars and she and granddaughter Grace provided support while we stirred and stirred and stirred.
Each year the color of the sauce is different, depending on the apples we use. This year we had a good crop of Red Delicious, so we used those, some Rome and some Grimes Golden. The color is lovely, a nice reddish brown; and the flavor? Well, every year we think it's the best we've ever made, but this year's batch truly is delicious.
We started with 15 gallons of sauce. I follow the way my neighbor Belva Simons taught me and cook it down to about half of what we started with. We cook the sauce until it is boiling good and beginning to turn color; streaks of a dark gold will begin to appear and the boil cannot be stirred down. Then we add the sugar, slowly so that the sauce doesn't stop boiling. When all the sugar is in (20-25 pounds for my kettle, depending again on the apples and their sweetness), we continue cooking until the apple butter passes the "slump test." I don't know if that's the right term for it, but it describes what we're looking for very well--butter that does not weep and that holds its shape when a spoonful is placed on a plate. The whole cooking time is usually between 4 and 5 hours. (Add another 4-5 hours to make enough applesauce to fill the kettle).
When it was done I hurried inside to heat up the chili I'd made earlier and whip up a batch of cornbread. Fresh apple butter on biscuits is good; on cornbread it's ambrosia. While I did that, the men cleaned up the kettle and put away the tables, tin, and other things we used. Today we relaxed. Two of the guys played golf; grandchildren and Larry watched a movie and I did laundry and visited with my daughter-in-law.
The house is empty now; our company went home with apple butter, cider, eggs, gourds, butternut squash, apples, brownies and lots of hugs. I am washing up linens and towels and missing the sounds of their voices and laughter already.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.