I love fall, always have. It brings with it an excitement, a sort of energy, that recharges the land and a people grown weary of the stifling summer heat and drought that often accompanies it. Change in and of itself is not necessarily good, but it can be. I am resolved to make this a good fall, brilliant in worth, glowing with love and filled with promise.
In the Shenandoah Valley, autumn also means apple butter boiling. My most outstanding memory of fruit butter making occurred years ago when my son was small and the girls not yet born. My husband’s mother decided her daughters-in-law should have the rich experience of stirring apple butter and we gathered with her in what is now the basement of our garage apartment.
Before that it was a woodworking shop and even further back is where my parents-in-law ‘went to housekeeping’ as Mom Trissel calls it, in the days when they were first married. They lived there for a number of months. At the time of the boiling, it was a dimly lit room with a small wood stove and a brick kettle cooker behind it built against the chimney.
We ladies spent the morning peeling and slicing up bushels of tart, red apples, then stoked up the fire. Mom first sprinkled a handful of pennies over the bottom of the enormous old copper kettle to help keep the apples from sticking before we set the pot in a wide hole in the cooker. She added spices and gallons of cider to the apples and we commenced to stirring.
Hours passed as each of us took turns at manning the long-handled wooden ladle. The little room grew charged with the spicy fragrance of the aromatic brew. We were sorely tired by the time it was pronounced done, but it was wonderful stuff. Two saplings now grow at the back of our garage from the mountain of peels and seeds we tossed outside that day. The trees are entwined together like lovers and have espaliéd themselves up along the wall to the roof. Their abundant fruit is runty from lack of care but has an excellent tangy sweetness.
*Pic of apple butter boiling in a copper kettle, such as we used, over an open fire.