Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Apple Butter 17

Every year since their wedding, our friends Janine and John have held an “Apple Butter Festival” to commemorate their anniversary. I am ashamed to say that it has taken Pam and I seventeen years to finally attend. I was a little nervous knowing what a big event this was and that I was coming in seemingly as a stranger. It ended up being an awesome time for both Pam and I.

It’s said that ritual is an aspect of culture that helps to bring people together and Apple Butter is just such a ritual. The entire weekend is centered around a large copper kettle that contains the ingredients of this amazing concoction. The kettle is propped up by a steel tripod, which suspends the works over a smoky wood fire. The blend in the kettle must be stirred constantly to keep the mixture from burning and everyone in attendance takes a turn to keep the butter churning. This year the pot started cooking at 11:00 a.m. and went until about midnight before the mixture was declared to be “done.”

While the fire and the kettle were the center point of the festivities, there were many ancillary activities that occurred around the focal point. The younger attendees kept themselves busy with football, soccer, ping pong and a variety of other games. There was a tie-die station, an arts and crafts table and, of course, lots of food. It seems that all who attend bring something for the table so there was a wealth and variety of delicious sustenance. It was all so good and it was difficult to pace myself during the day. Other distractions included hay-rides, a water bottle rocket launching competition, glow sticks, and the company of some really cool people. It was great for Pam to see her old friends again and I really enjoyed meeting Janine and John’s family and friends. A truly nice group of people.

Sometime after midnight, Janine began to test the ingredients in the kettle to see if they were ready. Once they got to the right consistency, she added the spices and the butter continued to be turned over the open fire. When everything had a good chance to merge together, the fire was removed and the butter was parceled into small jars. Everyone there devoted themselves to the production of bottling the apple butter, helping with the pouring, wiping the jars, putting on the lids and sorting the jars out on two tables. It was quite a production. I’m not sure how many jars they ended up with but there had to be at least a couple hundred.

After the apple butter was set aside, the fire was restored to the fire pit and we sat around listening to the lids of the jars contract as a vacuum was created within. The popping sound the jars made was an interesting contrast to the cool country night. We sat up for a while before retiring to our tent the catch a few winks.

In the morning, everyone chipped in the break down the little village that had emerged out in the field around where the apple butter was cooking. We got our share of the apple butter, said our goodbyes and headed for home. During our drive, we reminisced about how much fun Apple Butter 17 was and promised ourselves that we would attend again.

Thanks for a great time Janine and John and happy anniversary. See you next year.

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