Fall always means apple butter, at least to the parishioners at Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church in Chuckey.
Here, beneath a bright blue sky and warm sunshine with just a nip of autumn in the air, they gather each year to prepare the seasons jars of homemade apple butter.
The tradition, established at Lizzie and Walter Erwins home nearly 40 years ago, is still going strong as the churchs United Methodist Womens Groups main fundraiser.
This year, on Sept. 19, they arrived armed with copper kettles, sugar, apples, cinnamon oil and old-fashioned wooden paddles to stir it all up.
Sallie Fleenor remembers a time when she used to peel and cut apples from her fathers orchard. The apples would then be frozen until they gathered to make apple butter.
Now they start with unsweetened applesauce instead of whole apples to save time and turn a multi-day operation into a one-day event.
They also use tented or covered propane burners to keep the heat supply steady, instead of wood like they did in the early days.
The trick, these apple butter makers say, is to keep stirring throughout the operation.
When asked the secret to their apple butter, they could only offer a general guide. Its mostly alchemy, they said.
Here are the general steps to making apple butter shared by the members of Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church:
Once it comes to a rolling boil, add the sugar. The sauce will begin to darken.
Keep cooking down until the sauce passes the plate test. (Sauce is dipped out onto a plate and analyzed by a group of women to see if it sticks together appropriately.)
Once consensus is reached, cinnamon oil is added.
When deemed ready, the group gathers to dip into jars in an assembly line fashion. One person dips, the other wipes the jars down, another puts on the lid, and someone else stacks and carries the full jars to storage in the fellowship hall.
When they are all done, the 2015 Mt. Carmel Apple Butter is ready to sell.
Altogether, it is working together that ensures the butters success, this group maintains. While apple butter-making tends to be seen as a project for the womens group, they also stressed, it couldnt be done without the men.
The best part is the camaraderie, one woman added that and perhaps sampling the Apple Butter Stack Cakes they like to prepare later.
Apple butter can still be purchased by calling Opal Broyles at 257-5511. Cost is $5 for a pint and $8 for a quart.
Once you have the apple butter, here is one stack cake recipe to try.
APPLE BUTTER STACK CAKE
1 cup molasses
2 cups brown sugar
1 stick butter
3 cups self-rising flour
2 cups sweet milk
2 tablespoons ginger
Mix all above ingredients thoroughly.
Pour batter in greased pans and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or until done; cool. Spread apple butter on and between layers of cake. Its ready to serve.
Recipe Courtesy Cooks.com