Saturday, September 27, 2008

Makin' apple buttaaaahh

Well, it was just a lovely day for my family's apple butter festival! 
It may be officially fall, but today was downright summery. Not a cloud in the sky, temperatures rising to about 78° in the afternoon, and plenty of good company.
Actually, I think we had more people at this get-together than we had at the reunion this summer, so that was pretty cool!
This is part of Cousin Tom and his wife Nici's back yard--they're the ones who always have the apple butter shindig. It's been years since I've been to their place--I don't think I've been there since I was a little girl--and I'd forgotten how nice it is. It's an older farm house that sits on 10 acres, and Nici has lots of beautiful flowers. They maintain trails out in their woods, and Ken and I took a walk out there. (Plenty of others also took a stroll.) It's beautiful, with a mixture of hardwood trees and evergreens, and it was neat to take a walk out there.
We got there a little before 10 AM, and asked what we could do. We went into one of the garages, where they were prepping the apples. One person peeled the apples (with one of those crank-type peelers), another cored and sliced them with one of those handheld thingies, and then the rest of us cut off any trace of peel and cut out any bad spots. My hand was cramping by the time we were done, but it went pretty quickly! 
They had already started the fire and the apple butter by the time we got there. It was 20 gallons of cut-up apples, added gradually, about 20 gallons of apple cider (which Tom boils down and freezes for the following year...otherwise it would take forever to cook down), and eventually some sugar, after it all cooks down. The final ingredient is some sassafras root. This year, Tom got Cortlandt apples, but the recipe that comes down from our Grandpa says that the best apples are Grimes Golden, which Tom says are a little more solid and tart. There's a guy in the area that has Grimes Golden trees, but Tom wasn't able to get any this year.

A big pot of apples. I'd guess that about ten times this was what was needed for the apple butter.
Here's Cousin Tom stirring the apple butter. It has to be stirred constantly, otherwise it will burn and stick on the bottom of the pot. The "stirrer" is a paddle with a six-foot long handle, and Cousin Wayne showed us all an original paddle from our family--it was hand-hewn, and it was neat to see the aged wood. Hard to believe my family has been doing this for so many years, but kind of a neat tradition.

Ken took a turn, too.

Even when we started eating, someone had to stay back and stir the apple butter, and Cousin Doug took that duty. Ken relieved him, so Doug could have lunch.
Part of lunch was a turkey baked in an underground oven. Apparently that's the Boy Scout way! A small pit holds the turkey, Tom places stones around the container, puts on the lid, and builds a fire on top of it. Then he covers it with dirt, and it bakes in the ground. Kind of fun, and wow, it just fell off the bone! And holy moley, there was SO MUCH food there! (I'm glad I didn't make deviled eggs--THREE people brought them, including Mom! Ha ha!) Chicken and noodles, sausage and sauerkraut, ham, turkey, macaroni salad, plenty of other things, and a table full of desserts. I was so full by the time I finished my meal, I couldn't even eat anything for dessert. Drat! There was some good stuff, but I just cannot eat that much.

 One of the best things about today was getting to see my Cousin Bill. (I keep wanting to call him Billy, but it's been a long time since he went by Billy!) He and his wife Mary came up from Texas (he's Tom's brother), and I think it's probably been 15 years since I've seen him. (The last time was my Uncle Bill's--Bill and Tom's father--funeral, so this was a much happier occasion.) In this picture, left to right, is Bill, Cousin Emma Jean (who is a total sweetheart), my sister Susie, and my Dad. When I was a youngster, I used to occasionally spend the night with Bill and his wife at the time, Akiko, who was from Japan. (Bill met her while in the service.) It was my first exposure to another culture, and I remember how much I enjoyed those times. I remember Akiko making sukiyaki, and we dipped the meat and veggies in raw egg yolks. Very exotic for this Midwestern girl! (It was delicious, by the way.) Bill and Akiko seemed to enjoy having me there, and I would exchange letters with Akiko's niece in Japan (this was pre-email!) and Akiko would translate. Bill and Akiko divorced some years later, and Mary is a very sweet and friendly woman. It made my day to see Bill, and he gave me a big hug.
If I could climb upon my soapbox for a moment, Bill is also our family's "medical miracle." He'd been on dialysis for some time, due to kidney failure from hypertension. Last year, he received a kidney transplant. He's getting close to his one year anniversary, and that's the time when the hospital contacts the donor's family and asks if they want to meet the recipient. Bill said that he hopes they agree to it, because he really wants to thank them and tell them how he owes his life to their family member. We talked a bit about being an organ donor, and unless you have religious beliefs that prohibit being a donor, please make sure that you are a donor. Organ donors save lives...a donor saved my cousin's life, so please consider it! [climbing down off soapbox]
We left a little before 3 PM, before the apple butter was done and jarred, but I know Mom and Dad will get us a jar. It was such a beautiful day that we were able to put the top down on the Mustang on the way home!
It was a great day spent with family, and I'm so pleased we were able to go.


jimsulliv3 said...

Well, I learn something new every day. I like apple butter and it's been years since I had some, but I had no idea how it was made. Thanks for the insight.


mpnaz58 said...

Ahhh, times with family are priceless!  ...and making something (usually food) that runs through your family is equally so.  The comraderie, poking fun, working side by side...I just love that!  Thanks for sharing.
xoxo ~Myra

solace223 said...

Sounds like a great day.  Then again, for a preggo lady, any day with that much good food is a good day.  ;)  My mom loves apple butter but I'm not sure if she's ever had any quite that fresh.  It's definitely a very cool tradition that you have going in your family.  Sorry, I can't stop thinking about all the food now, the words have gone from my brain, in place of much drooling.  
Oh, my husband keeps bugging me to ask what year the Mustang is?  (he loves/obsesses over any year or make of mustang)

slapinions said...

Sounds like a lot of fun and a great family tradition!


sybilsybil45 said...

What a truly wonderful day.  One that you will always remember.  Everything looked just perfect..Thank you so much for sharing it with us and all the lovely photo's just added to our enjoyment....I could almost smell the applebutter cooking in the pot...almost as good as eating I would think.  In New Zealand they quite often eat meat etc done in a pit in the ground when they have a big faily get together. I agree it is delicious..over there it is called a Hungi...not the right spelling but I can't remember exactly how it is spelt    Thanks again !!Love  sybil xxx

madcobug said...

Sounds and looks like a fun day. I bet that apple butter will be delicious on buttered biscuits or toast either one. Thanks for sharing your and Ken's day. Hugs, Helen

queeniemart said...

my BFF, Lori, had juvenile diabetes and was on dialysis for 6 yrs. She was near death when she got a kidney/pancreas transplant at OSU. She met her donors family 2 yrs later. It has now been 6 yrs. She is healthy as a horse. The man who was the donor was an Amish man riding his bike to the store and a semi hit him. I love apple butter...Rick loves to eat it at Cracker Barrel. I think it is AWESOME that you met your family and had such a good time and good food!!!!!

gen0507 said...

Wow, what an event!  It looks like so much fun, & to think that your family has been doing this for so long!  Very interesting!  Great pictures....your lunch sounds wonderful too.  I hope the donor's family will want to meet with Bill.  Please let us know how that unfolds.


laurelrk66 said...

First of all, I am utterly and unabashedly jealous!  It sounds so idyllic -- a large family get-together out in the country on a perfect day.   I'm glad you were able to be there.  Second, as I think you know, I've been on kidney dialysis for almost 2 years, and it's not much fun.  It doesn't hurt and, at least in my case, it doesn't drain me of energy (because I'm fortunate to have no other problems, such as diabetes), but it's time-consuming and the idea of undergoing it three days a week for the rest of my life is a little depressing, despite the fact that I know I need it to live.  I haven't put myself on the kidney transplant list yet because, frankly, I'm scared.  Stories like your cousin's draw me a little bit closer to taking that big step.  Thanks!

nightmaremom said...

I absolutley love apple butter!  How cool to have a family party to make it...  sounds like a wonderful way to get together.  I agree about being a donor... I can't of course.. they don't want my parts or blood... but my son is donor regularly giving blood and has all his permissions on his license.
hugs to you

eml625 said...

Hey girl, sorry about my lack of comments, I am reading , just don't sit long at the computer with my back lately.

What a great tradition your family has. I remember my mom loving apple butter. I sure wish we could get a jar of that !
Have a great day

valphish said...

Sounds like you had a great time =).  Yes, be an organ donor!  My b-i-l was saved by a marrow transplant donor.  I will certainly donate anything I can.  Sassafras in apple butter?  Neat!  I used to dig that up as a child, put sugar on it and chew it.  It tastes like root beer and licorice mixed together to me.  I am so glad you had such a wonderful time.  I hope you got to bring some dessert home. LOL  Take good care, Beth!  Love, Val xox

buckoclown said...

It was a fun day, I will get my pictures done sometime today.  

As to your soapbox, I have inside knowledge that it is multi-tiered.  I think you move from level to level <LOL>

sangrialel said...

It sounds like it was so much fun!  Glad you got the chance to go!  Linda

jhorky said...

What a great way to spend the day.  It just looks so down home.  Sounds like lots of good food and a lot of fun.  Lucy

markonit said...

Sounds and looks like y'all had an absolutely wonderful time ... days like this, doesn't count against your age ... the more of them you have, the younger you will feel ..!

wwfbison said...

That sounds like a great time and some mighty good food too!!  I was very interested in reading about how the apple butter is made.  You will have to let us know how it tastes after you get your jar.  A wonderful story about Bill and his successful transplant.  Wishing him good health for many years to come.

preciousone25 said...

WOW!!!  That sounds like a PERFECT DAY!!!!  How FUN!!!  All my family ever got together to make were tamales... LOL!!  The pictures made me want to enjoy a nice picnic.  I have a jar of apple butter here (purchased at the Apple Farm in San Luis Obispo, I'm sure not as good as real home made, but...) maybe I'll open it and make some toast!!


preciousone25 said...

Oh, BTW, I'm a registered donor... and would also encourage everyone to register!!!  Don't wait!!!


aimer said...

It sounds like a perfect way to spend a day, surrounded by family and sharing laughs and good food.--Sheria

jjdolfin9 said...

Sounds like a great day.  I was telling Ken... I've seen pork done that way but never a turkey.  Pretty interesting.  I learned something new.
Hugs, Joyce

plieck30 said...

Came here by way of your hubby's journal. Such an interesting entry and a wonderful family tradition. The property there sounds quite a nice area to go for a walk in. Glad you two had a great time with family. Paula

marainey1 said...

What a great time you had.  Not only making apple butter but having all the family too.  That is quite different from my son's experience but still they are carrying on a tradition began by my Mom who of course got it from hers and so on...that is a great thing.  I'll have to tell him about the apples - Grimes Golden.  He did say once he tried courtland and they were too mushy when they were using the apple peeler.  It's a great to have such a nice family tradition.  'On Ya' - ma

dbp2000 said...

Wow!  I had not thought about apple butter in years.  I guess in my family that is a tradition that died with my grandmother.  Including my baby granddaughter, I realize there are now four generations of us that don't know how to make it.

Looks and sounds like you had a wonderful time and you were able to make some wonderful memories. It brought back some memories of my childhood.


lisawesmalayna said...

What a wonderful day! I am pleased you and Ken could enjoy th apple butter festival, and your family. It sounded like you had super hardCORE day.
I know that when family get's together you have many types of people, but my question is was anyone ConSEEDed? Ha Ha!

From what you shared it really seems like it will be memory that you will cherish, and made your soul smile. You said you hadn't been there since you were a little girl. Besides this weekend, what is one of your fondest memories of your Cousin Tom's place? I read the other entry first, so let me say again good job for not STIRRING politics in with the apple butter!

There's nothing like a nice walk in the woods, and even more peacful on family land.

I do the same thing when there is good food, I too get so full I can't eat the dessert either. Good thing for tuperware, for that is how I eat mine. Providing there is any left. I'm glad you had a great time and got see your family.

So in the wrord's of Linda Richman it sounds like it was 'like Buttah" your entry made me almost "Verklempt"!  

Thank you for sharing your day!