Apple Butter

Time: 5 - 7 hours
  • wood for fire (preferably oak) 
  • matches
  • large copper pot
  • cooking tripod
  • 2 gallons cider
  • 3 bushels of apples -- peeled, cored, and quartered
  • stirring paddle
  • six copper pennies
  • large bowl
  • several canning jars or plastic containers
  • long-handled spoon
  • ladle
  • saucer
  • sliced bread for tasting
  • hot water, soap, cloths, and scrubbing brush for clean up

Make an outdoor fire and set the copper pot on the tripod over the fire, but not touching the flame.  Add the cider to the pot and bring to a boil.  Add the apples and pennies.  Continue boiling.  Stir constantly for five to seven hours until the apple butter is thick.  It is ready to eat when a spoonful, put on a plate, does not drip off when the plate is turned upside down.  Scoop the apple butter out of the pot into a bowl.  Take out the pennies and wash them off.  Serve the hot apple butter spread on a slice of bread.  When the apple butter is cool enough, spoon it into the jars or plastic containers.  Use the hot water, soap, and scrubbing brush to scour the pot.

Interesting Facts About Apple Butter: 
  • Oak makes the best fire because it gives a steady heat without creating much flame.  If the firewood touches the kettle, the butter will burn.
  • Copper pennies were placed in the apple butter kettle to scrape the bottom of the kettle and to prevent the apple butter from burning.
  • Sugar, cinnamon, and spices may be added to the apple butter just at the end of cooking if desired.
  • Apple butter frolics were major social events.  In spite of the chores involved, the folks gathered to make apple butter had relatively little to do, so they told stories, gossiped, sang, and enjoyed fellowship with their neighbors.
  • Courting couples were often given the job of stirring the pot.
  • If the couple stirring the butter bumped the kettle and splashed the contents, they had to kiss each other.
  • The most popular stirring technique was to move the paddle twice around the sides and then across the middle.  The old rhyme reminded the stirrers: “Twice around the side and once down the middle.  That’s the way to stir the apple butter kittle.”
  • A young woman who splashed the butter when she stirred the kettle would make a poor housewife.
  • The pennies from the apple butter kettle were good luck charms, and not to be spent.
  • Before 1900 when home canning was widely available, the apple butter was preserved in a crock whose top had been covered with a thick paper.  The crock was then stored in a cool, dark place.