Roy and Myra Taylor, who live on State Route 37 just east of Sunbury, make apple butter the old-fashioned way, and use the occasion to hold a family gathering.
Recently the Taylors hosted about two dozen family members from around Ohio, West Virginia and Indiana for a day-long session of apple butter cooking and canning, and family socializing.
To our pioneer ancestors, making apple butter was a way to preserve fruit for the long winter months ahead.
Making apple butter was a labor-intensive process involving the entire family. Apples were peeled and cored before being cooked in a copper kettle to a caramelized, butter-like consistency, then preserved in glass jars for storage.
“My parents used to do this when I was a kid,” Roy said. “Five years ago, we decided to pick up the tradition. We were making it at our West Virginia cabin, but we bought this house last October and decided to move the apple butter tradition here. We enjoy the camaraderie, and the apple butter.”
Roy said they got their apples from Legend Hills Orchard in Utica. It took about 20 hours of peeling and coring apples for each batch of apple butter. Wood fires were started at 10 a.m. Two antique copper kettles were cooking apples while family members took turns stirring. A canning operation was underway in a garage.
“Each batch takes about four hours,” Roy said. “When it’s done cooking, we can it, we enjoy it, and we distribute it to our friends and family.”
By late Saturday, the extended Taylor family had netted 175 pints of apple butter and, the best part, they enjoyed a crisp fall day in each other’s company.