We love October in Missouri. The air is crisp, but not too cold. The trees are turning the most beautiful browns, reds and golds. It’s the perfect time to be outdoors. We do our best to be outside as much as possible in October. It. Is. Wonderful.
One of the best weekends in October is Applebutter Weekend. Every year we travel my parents’ house at the Lake of the Ozarks to make apple butter in a giant copper kettle over an open fire. The applebutter is amazing, but the best part is that we leave the city, spend time outdoors with friends and family, and slow the heck down.
My mom’s family has been making applebutter for 80 years, and the process has changed little over the decades.
Friday night, we peel apples. This is serious business. We’re talking ten bushels.
While we’re peeling, someone usually reminds us of the days when they had to do it all by hand (I think that was the same era in which they walked to school barefoot in the snow, uphill, both ways), and we thank God for these little gadgets. Peel. Core. Slice. Done.
To be sure we don’t get any unwanted pieces in the pot, we give the apples a once-over after they’re peeled, and cut out any bad spots or lingering pieces of peel. Then we bag ’em up and set ’em up high so the ‘coons won’t get ’em. Did I mention we’re in the Ozarks?
And, apparently, if you’re little enough and cute enough, you just help yourself to an apple or two.
We wrap it up around nine and head to bed shortly thereafter, because morning comes fast.
Saturday morning, we (and by “we,” I mean someone who is not me) get up at 5:30 and start the fire. We dump in the first bag of apples, add some cider to keep it from burning, and start stirring. All day, in shifts, someone walks the paddle around the fire, stirring the pot.
As the apples soften and cook down, we add more. Little by little, all of the apples make it in. We throw in some sugar and spices, and stir and stir and stir until it looks like this:
Then, usually around 3 in the afternoon, we can it. This is all hands on deck.
And when there’s no applebutter left to can, we break out the potato rolls, and scrape the bottom of the pot. The youngest amongst us is usually dunked head-first for the first taste. Nothing compares to that first bite of still-warm applebutter.
This year, I had to share some bites. How could I say no?
We’d love to hear your family’s fall traditions in the comments!