Making Apple Butter
The road to Sauder Village in Archbold, Ohio is lined with ripe corn in late September. I thank God for the farmers. Where would we be without them? I’m lucky and can take two-lane roads, my favorite way to travel, all the way there. It was a sunny day with temps in the mid-60’s; a perfect fall day for a road trip. Passing through the small settlement of Zone, I couldn’t help but think, “I’m in the zone,” and smiled.
It was apple butter making time at Sauder Village. The cider mill was open and pressing apples galore. I wanted to see the whole making-apple-butter process from the beginning so I chose the cider mill for my first stop. It is located way to the backside of the village and I had to pass the Ice Cream Parlor to get there. Lunch was a bowl of Peanut Butter and Buckeye ice cream.
The apple press was a big wooden contraption and took up most of the room. This one had been adapted for electricity. Back in the good ole days, the cider mills were run by a water wheel turning the gears, if a creek or river was nearby, or by a steam engine.
A mixture of tart and sweet apples were finely chopped and placed in a large shallow wooden rack lined with sturdy cloth. The press cranked down, at first it didn’t seem to budge, but the closer it came to the apples the easier it was to see the movement. The apple juice flowed through the cloth down to a catch basin below. A full load of apples, about a bushel, yielded 3 ½ gallons of cider.
I asked the man running the press what the difference is between apple juice and cider. He said that cider is unfiltered and still has apple pulp and sediment. If refrigerated, it will stay sweet for about two weeks and then it starts to turn hard and will eventually turn into cider vinegar.
After the apple pressing I headed back up to the front of the village. Just east of the Welcome Center, in front of the farm house, a mixture of 33 bushes of Macintosh and Cortland apples, with a ratio of two Macintosh to one Cortland, 30 gallons of cider and 25 pounds of sugar was being slowly cooked down in a large copper pot over an open fire. The wooden paddle had corn husks tied to it to prevent scratching the soft copper of the pot.
This method of making apple butter takes all day. Families use to come together, with the women canning the apple butter and the men tending the fire and stirring the pot. The task was made easier by sharing it with neighbors and family. It was also a way to preserve the goodness of apples and the nutrients, such as potassium and iron, through the winter. And best of all, it provided a sweet treat and a taste of warmer times during the cold snowy months. The apple butter was divvied up between the families at the end of the day.
Today’s cooks often use a slow-cooker to do the job. It is easier, but I think, not as much fun. When the apple butter at the village had been cooked down to just the right thickness, all of the on-lookers were given a taste. It was delicious.
Here is an apple butter recipe that recently was featured in my newspaper column, The Recipe Exchange.
1/2 bushel of apples to make 1 c vinegar
16 cups thick apple pulp 8 c sugar
4 t cinnamon 1/2 t ground cloves
DIRECTIONS: Wash approximately 1/2 bushel of apples. Core the apples, but do not peel them then slice or chop. Put apple pieces in a large pot and add only enough water to cook apples until soft. Put through a strainer to remove peelings. Measure out 16 cups of pulp. Combine with other ingredients and cook about 1 1/2 hours, stirring often, until mixture is a smooth mass when a little is cooled to check. Pour apple butter into hot sterilized jars and seal.
- Posted in: nothing but food