Apple butter thick enough to slice

Posted by | August 29, 2011

“Cider for apple butter must be perfectly new from the press, and the sweeter and mellower the apples are of which it is made, the better will the apple butter be. Boil the cider till recuded to one half its original quantity, and skim it well.

1850s wooden paddle for stirring apple butter“Do not use for this purpose an iron kettle, or the butter will be very dark, and if you use a brass or copper kettle, it must be scoured as clean and bright as possible, before you put the cider into it, and you must not suffer the butter to remain in it a minute longer than is actually necessary to prepare it, or it will imbibe a copperish taste, that will render it not only unpleasant, but really unhealthy.

“It is best to prepare it late in the fall, when the apples are quite mellow. Select those that have a fine flavor, and will cook tender; pare and quarter them from the cores, and boil them in the cider till perfectly soft, having plenty of cider to cover them well.

“If you wish to make it on a small scale, do not remove the apples from the cider when they get soft, but continue to boil them gently in it, till the apples and cider form a thick smooth marmalade, which you must stir almost constantly towards the last.
A few minutes before you take it form the fire, flavor it lightly with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, and when the seasonings are well intermixed, put it up in jars, tie folded paper over them, and keep them in a cool place.

WV women prepare apples for apple butter, 1937“If made in a proper manner, it will keep a good more than a year, and will be found very convenient, being always in readiness. Many people who are in the habit of making apple butter, take it from the fire before it is boiled near enough. Both to keep it well, and taste well, it should be boiled long after the apples have become soft, and towards the last, simmered over coals till it gets almost thick enough to slice.

“If you wish to make it on a large scale, after you have boiled the first kettle full of apples soft, remove them from the cider, draining them with a perforated ladle, that the cider may fall again to the kettle, and put them into a clean tub. Fill up the kettle with fresh apples, having them pared and sliced from the cores, and having ready a kettle of boiling cider, that is reduced to at least half its original quantity; fill up the kettle of apples with it as often as is necessary.

WV woman stirs apple butter kettle, 1937“When you have boiled in this manner as many apples as you wish, put the whole of them in a large kettle, or kettles, with the cider, and simmer it over a bed of coals till it is so thick, that it is with some difficulty you can stir it: it should be stirred almost constantly, with a wooden spaddle, or paddle, or it will be certain to scorch at the bottom or sides of the kettle. Shortly before you take it from the fire, season it as before directed, and then put it up in jars.”

The Kentucky Housewife, Lettice Bryan, 1839, (p. 375-77)

Mrs. Bryan’s contribution to the literature of Southern cooking is her thoroughness. Not only are there more recipes in this than in other books of the period—1,300—but the ingredients, techniques and results are also described more completely than was typical at the time.


appalachian+foods apple+butter Lettice+Bryan appalachia appalachian+history appalachian+mountains+history

3 Responses

  • Janet Smart says:

    No wonder I don’t make apple butter the old fashioned way! Just kidding, I remember when I was a child, in the fall all the family gathered in Grandma’s yard and made apple butter in a big kettle. I always assumed it was copper, but I don’t remember it being shiny. Grandma also put a silver dollar in the mixture to keep it from sticking. I love home made apple butter – much better than the store bought kind. I make it on my stove top, though, 5 pints at a time. It sure does taste good.

  • […] sure to visit Dave Tabler’s Appalachian History Blog, where you can find this post that he wrote rather recently (August) about apple butter boils. 37.431573 -78.656894 LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

  • […] time. Finally, my mom was able to teach me this year! I’ve never known anyone personally who made it the old fashioned way (in a kettle outside over a fire), but I’m willing to bet that in any Appalachian community […]

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