Friday, October 7, 2016

Some Thoughts on Apple Butter

Regarding the rules for West Virginia, The Farmer’s Market Vendor Guide: A Guide for Farmers, Sanitarians, and the Consumer lists apple butter, along with sorghum and molasses, as a food product with a special classification.  It can be produced outdoors in open copper kettles and then sold at Farmer’s Markets and other venues.  In order to sell most foods, the facility where they are produced is required have some level of certification as a commercial kitchen.  The reasoning for excepting these foods is that the combination of high temperatures before jarring and the generous amount of sugar they contain decrease the likelihood that the product is “potentially hazardous” to a very low level.  Maybe it also speaks to tradition and tourism, too.  Demonstrations of the historical method for making apple butter are featured at a number of fall festivals.  And at least two cities in West Virginia have dedicated Apple Butter Festivals!

Photo lifted from the Salem Apple Butter Festival, Inc.
Facebook page.
I had high hopes for a really unique experience when I drove the 30-ish miles east to Salem this afternoon.  With  no disrespect intended for the many hours of work put in by the folks who organize this festival, I have to say I was a bit disappointed.  It was busy and active and by all those kinds of measures, successful.  It's just... there was nothing to set it apart from any other street fair in any other town in America, except for the apple butter making demonstration.  I do have to say, I did enjoy watching it simmering in a big open kettle over a wood fire! That historical aspect is what was missing from the rest of the festival, in my opinion, as this was surely the best part of it for me.

Photo from the official website of the
Salem Apple Butter Festival, Inc.
However, you don’t need an open roaring fire or a big copper kettle to make really great apple butter.  Basically, it’s apples and sugar and spices cooked down to a jam-like consistency.  You can do it stovetop or even in your crockpot using any one of the dozens of recipes available on Pinterest.  Or, if  you are that kind of woman, you can bust out the cauldron and go for it outdoors... One of these soon to come days, I plan to give it a try!  Probably on the stovetop, though.

And unless I find a good reason to choose otherwise, McIntosh will be my apple of choice.

Photo from Jane Lear (actually read this post on
her fancy food blog - great guide for choosing
your apples!)

The West Virginia-grown McIntosh's seem especially delicious to me this year... maybe they always are; this is my first time tasting them here and I am wowed by their tangy sweetness with just a hint of strawberry flavor.  I'm pretty sure I could be a very happy girl with a whole orchard of these beauties in my yard!!  And the boys are surely loving having them fresh as our nightly snack!  Me too.

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