It seems that ever since we finished up with last year’s first attempt at a farm Apple Butter Fest, we started looking forward to this year’s event with lots of ideas for improving on the day.
We chose the same weekend as last year since we felt that the second weekend of November brought a nice chill to the air – perfect for standing around a hot fire all day – and of course, even more importantly, the end of the apple picking season.
We have not proven ourselves to be the best at advanced weather predictions and this weekend was no exception. Friday, Apple Butter Fest Eve, brought an almost laughable, and shocking snow storm to our area…gulp!That night, grandson Coulter added to our amusement as he decided he could finally put his snowball makers to good use and was out enjoying a serious minded bit of fun. Although it didn’t have a chance to accumulate too much, there is still a light snow on the ground today due to the cold temps!
So the morning of the Fest, we awoke to record breaking cold weather of 19 degrees, which we were told felt like 11 degrees. Outlying areas were as low as 17 with other parts of Missouri recording 13 actual degree temps, breaking the record by 9 degrees. Our brains were thinking “yikes, are we crazy?” but we proceeded with all planned activities knowing that if things got really bad we could move to the barn for a bit of protection from the weather.
We proceeded apace in part due to a couple of improvements on last year’s apple butter making model. First, we decided to start apple peeling well in advance and used a Huckleberry Finn tactic of convincing some of our dear CSA subscribers that it would be “fun” for them to take apples home the previous Saturday to peel/core/quarter in advance to add to the pot in time for cooking. A big thanks to all those who contributed their help!
We also decided to start peeling the bulk of the apples beginning on Wednesday and continuing thru Friday morning as I personally prepared 112 pounds of apples! I had the help of two manual peeling tools but mostly relied on the attachment to my electric Kitchen Aid mixer (thank you to Peter & Stefanie for this wonderful gift!) for most of the processing.
Even with this advantage, I worked for several hours each day to peel the apples with a bit of precision and orderliness. Apples were cored and peeled with the intention of feeding peels to the chickens but cores had to be discarded due to arsenic in the seeds. Is this where the phrase ‘a method to madness’ comes from? Haha!We stored the apples in the refrigerator in 2 gallon bags and by the end of the preparations, we had 24 gallons ready to go into the copper kettle. Next, we were given a new tool for the cause from friends Janet and David Lange, who were devout stirrers last year and sadly recently moved out of the area, as they saw the need for a special wooden copper kettle scraper and kindly gave us one last XMAS. Even though the intention for this paddle was for stirring Cajun pots of Jambalaya and the like, it was a great help and we put it to good use this year! We have a funny saying at the farm – “morning comes early” – and yesterday was no exception as in the dark of night (at 6am) with a light snow on the ground and 19 degree temps, we started the fire on the terrace and had the 30 gallon copper pot in place. Dave is virtually disguised in his practical cold weather protection!But as it happens each and every day, the sun rises and shines on our silly activities. Here I am with our dedicated friend, Joyce, as by 7am we can finally see the contents of the pot we are stirring. Notice our futile attempts to protect the ferns in the background with plastic coverings…nope, they were toast!Joyce and I scurried back and forth, indoors and out, since there were food preparations to attend to for our guests…coffee, cookies, snacks, sandwiches and more. Here are the farm famous brown sugar, spice and jam cookies (think Linzer) that we had prepared along with trays of brownies and yummy PB&J sandwiches (with farm jam, no less!) As you can see, the fall theme of oak leaves, acorns, apples and maple leaves are the design element on the cookies which were a huge hit with many asking for the recipe!The stirring of the steamy apples continued throughout the day as friends and family arrived to help and we enjoyed the delightful company of at least 17 families! Here are just a few…The day warmed a little with the sun shining brightly causing those of us with lots of activity to happily shed our coats and hats. I decided to sport my newest Bohus Stickning knitted sweater as it reminded me of the colors of the beautiful apples I had peeled!As the day wore on and snacks and lunches were devoured, we were getting closer and closer to the end product of the bubbling mass of nearly butter-like consistency of the apples. The celebration of the day was euphoric!
A core group of die hard stirrers continued to the end and we mobilized, bringing out the tables and sterilized jars for the last effort of jarring up the goodies. Taking the hot, bubbling mass of apple butter (temps as hot as 202 degrees) from the kettle and ladling (with wide mouthed funnels) into the prepared jars was also a bit of an improvement from last year’s event. Unfortunately, with all hands on deck during the process, I have no photos of this fast paced action but here is a description: Dave continued to stir the pot while we had two people ladling and two people wiping the edges of the filled jars and securing the lids in place. The finishing team – Jane, Laura, Joyce, Nancy and Dave – proudly posed with 44.5 pints and 18 half pints of finished product! Smiles all around and blue skies to boot!!! Yes, we were tired from the long day, but can’t wait for next year’s Apple Butter Fest with dreams of more participants and an even greater apple butter volume! Thanks to all who made this such a great day for Seven Oaks Farm & Orchard!