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Making Apple Butter

Or: Apples in Iowa Volume 2

See previous post for the first day of fun in Iowa.

So Saturday morning we got up early and were working in the apple butter by 8:30 a.m. Here are some groggy morning shots.

It was a bit foggy outside.

Over by the giant cauldron (seriously, Voldemort could have come out of that thing it is so big), Caroline's parents were already really absorbed in the apple butter.

Some interesting tidbits about making the apple butter in the cauldron (fine, giant copper kettle):
  • The flames need to be hot and high enough to get it boiling, but not high enough to scald the butter to the bottom.
  • It needs to be constantly stirred to assure there is no burning or sticking to the sides or bottom, or it can mess up the flavor of the batch.
  • We put pennies on the bottom of the kettle (from before they stopped making pennies out of things that weren't copper, so no worries), so the stir stick could really keep everything from cementing on the bottom.
  • This process can take 4 to 8 hours. Yep, constant stirring, constant fire, 4 to 8 hours. Good thing there were lots of us to help stir (see totally posed picture below) one-at-a-time in shifts.
Yummy deliciousness in a pot (above). The different types of applesauce were poured in as equally as possible so that the apple butter would be sweet enough and have a well-blended flavor.
Many hours later, it was time to start getting the 70 quarts of cooked down applesauce out of the kettle and into the apple butter jars. Apple butter is, in fact, basically just cooked down applesauce and flavoring (cinnamon and sometimes sugar). Caroline's parents and grandmother are pretty-well experts at this whole process (above). Inside, I was helping prep the sugar-free batch (both below).

Everything had to be boiled, including the lids to the jars and then the jars themselves once filled and closed. The sealing doesn't take place until after the full jars are boiled and start cooling (below).
One of their neighbors came by to help speed things along, since everything is supposed to be hot when it goes into the jars (below).

The cauldron was finally empty (above) and we finished up the last of the jars in the basement (below). I'm holding a magnetic stick that helps get the boiling metal lids onto the jars without too much finger scalding. Behind my wrist on the table are the special jar tongs we used to get the cans in and out of the boiling water. And as a final note on the image - you can just see Caroline's grandma who was excellent about explaining the history of their family canning things and how canning of apple butter works.

And above is the final result. 64 quarts (that's 18 gallons folks) of apple butter. We only had one jar break in the boiling pot (apparently this is totally normal, but no one told me and I was really afraid I had screwed up - it was luckily in the last batch) and less than five didn't seal. Considering the gajillion jars we did (because some of the jars were cup and pint size - including a series of baby food jars), those numbers were pretty good to me.

Oh, and we found a few more pennies in the bottom of the cauldron then we remembered putting in, so we're pretty sure (but fingers crossed) no one will be spreading Abe Lincoln on their breakfast toast!

Also, this was shockingly only about 1/3 of our day's work. You can check out the cider making in a future post.

Love always, ~Heather

P.S. - Special thanks to Caroline's whole family out in Iowa who not only taught me tons of stuff about apples, canning, and making things out of apples but took me in as one of their own from the minute I arrived. It was such a fabulous trip!


Anonymous said…
So fun,
The next step is butter-beer ;-)
mari said…
Thanks - that was the line I liked too.

The apple butter looks amazing - and I love how happy you are in these shots - I mean the joy is radiating from your face.

Great news on your revelations too. Cross fingers, toes and everything else for me too!