Archive for Wednesday, November 12, 1997

APPLE BUTTER

November 12, 1997

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A tried-and-tested kettle helps produce sweet apple butter.

Snits, cider and sawhorses.

It took all three for Lawrence resident Darrell Shuck and his wife, Frances, to fire up and cook down some 96 pints of apple butter.

Darrell Shuck was about 8 years old when he first watched his mother and aunt make the sweet spread.

"They went out to Jackman's Orchard on Sixth Street, got some apples and made it," he said. "They used a kettle that belonged to my great-grandfather."

The copper kettle, which holds 30 gallons, has been in Shuck's family for the past 125 years. As far as Shuck knows, it has only been used for making apple butter.

The kettle went unused for several years until Shuck hung it on 2-by-4 boards resting on sawhorses in 1982 to make a batch of apple butter.

He's made it two or three times since his first solo batch.

"I decided I wanted to try it," Shuck said. "There's satisfaction of knowing that you're doing something somebody did years ago."

Shuck had more apples than he bargained for this year. With a bumper crop from his 14 apple trees, he started the butter process with 20 gallons of his homemade cider and 15 gallons of apple pieces, known as snits.

He started by peeling the apples and cutting them into pieces a few at a time, freezing them until he had enough to make the cider.

At 7 a.m. Oct. 22, Shuck lit a fire in his yard south of Lawrence and placed the cider-filled kettle over the flames.

"I let it boil down to about half," he said. "I started with 20 gallons and let it boil for about ... five hours. I ended up with about 10 gallons."

Shuck stirred the mixture constantly and, after getting the cider boiled down, added the snits.

By the time the kettle was full, it weighed about 125 pounds. Shuck and family members stirred the butter for another six hours. When the mixture was almost done, they added sugar, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. The result: sweet apple butter, just right for spreading on toast.

"When you take it out and put it on a flat saucer, if it holds its shape it's done," Shuck said. "It starts to look wrinkly on the top in the kettle."

Neighbor Miles Shuck, a first cousin once removed, helped Darrell Shuck move the heavy kettle once the mixture was ready to put in jars, 12 hours after the fire started.

For his efforts, Miles Shuck received a share of the apple butter. Although it will take a couple of months to eat it all, he said it was worth the effort.

"It was good," he said.

Frances Shuck, who still has enough apple butter on hand to more than satisfy her sweet tooth, said she's not interested in selling any of the batch. Instead, she will give it to friends and family members for Christmas.

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