How to Make Apple Butter

Make this delicious apple butter recipe using the Douthit family’s old-timey food tradition and make it a fantastic fall project.

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    Great-Gran stirring the pot of apple butter.
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    TOP LEFT: Ole-timey apple butter simmering over the fire. BOTTOM LEFT: Adding sugar and cinnamon. RIGHT: Canning the apple butter.

  • 023-066-01-Great-Aunt-Helen
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Nowadays, Great-Aunt Helen Douthit calls her annual apple butter-makin' Saturday "just an old-time project," but there was a period when it meant a heck of a lot more to her. Some of you new farm folks trying to make a living out there on the land may find knowing how to make apple butter means a lot to you, too.

Fifty years ago, Aunt Helen and Great-Gran Mitchell started making a yearly affair of the early fall apple butter season. Then, when things got rough during the Depression, the Douthits transformed their autumn get-togethers into money in the pocket by increasing production and selling the delicious spread and other goodies at a roadside stand.

Apple butter was — and still is — a popular item at farm stands, and the Douthit family continues to make it. They feel that the preparation of the treat is a great way to get the clan together for a harvest celebration and earn a little money at the same time. Great-Gran, at the age of 90, supervises from the sidelines while Aunt Helen and numerous sons, daughters, grandchildren, and others pitch in.

A quart of apple butter costs from three to six cents if you make it yourself — less if you have your own apples — and can easily bring 90 cents a quart or $3.50 a gallon at a roadside stand. (If you plan to sell such a product, you should check out any and all local laws dealing with the marketing of home-cooked foods. Most places don't enforce such regulations, but you'd better be aware of them anyhow.)

Money apart, this tasty preserve is a great way to put by some apples for the winter. Here's the recipe, distilled from a conversation with Great-Gran Mitchell herself.

First of all you'll need the right tools. The Douthits use a 30-gallon copper kettle with a rounded seamless bottom. The caldron rests on a specially designed tripod which holds it about a foot off the ground.

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