Apple Butter: creating delicious item while building fellowship

Posted on Monday, October 29, 2012 at 8:36 am

By Velma Dunard

According to  church records at Zion United Church of Christ, Troy, the tradition of apple butter making has been going on since 1922 when Zion people worshipped on Mound Street. Records prior to that time were in German.  Until we can get it translated we are not for sure the exact year they started.

Apple butter making was a project of Ladies Aid.  The Adult Fellowship was the group that started up the process.  It is interesting to Bob and I because his mother (Edna Dunard) and grandmother (Lottie Dunard) were both members of the Ladies Aid that helped with the process.

In 1923 they sent 48 gallons to the orphans home. They also had a profit of $81.

This indicates apple butter making has been going on for at least 90 years at Zion Church.

In reading the 1930 Annual Report I found an interesting remark and it says, “…Although the Farmers and Mercantile Bank of Troy failed,  they were holding some of Zion’s funds.  So the ladies of Zion forged ahead and made …” 832 ½ gal. of apple butter (profit of $662.32 with expenses of $193.35).

To some of you may not familiar with Troy in the 30’s there was a Mercantile Store owned by the Kuhne Bros.  As we read through the minutes of the Ladies Aid it was very apparent that when they got a call from Mr. Kuhne saying he needed more apple butter. Like at least 150 gallon the Ladies Aid would get busy and find out if the apples were available and when they could get them picked up.

The jar committee (I like that terminology) settled with Mr. Kuhne on the expense of the sugar and spice for $46.75.  They sold Mr. Kuhne 186 gallons.  They were able to deposit $140.12.  Getting jars ready is quite a job in case some of you don’t know that. Having enough pints is always a concern.  We need over 1,000 pints.

You see what Kuhne Mercantile Store was doing; he gave the Ladies Aid the jars and sugar for the apple butter and then taking the amount owed from the apple butter, which they sold at his store.

From what information I gathered apple butter making did not take place during the Depression because of the shortage of sugar.

There were about 35 years that we have no record or indication that apple butter made.  We are missing a book of minutes during that time…so we are not for sure if they made or not. I really find this hard to believe that they didn’t make it, but never the less we don’t have a record to show anything.

The Adult Fellowship picked up the tradition in 1977.  Now I will update you on how we have been making apple butter during my era.

Our first year we picked apples at the home of Dr. Rasmussen’s and Gene Dwyer (Pam Muenstermann’s parents) now the home of David Dunard. We started with 12 bushels.  Friedens Church at Moscow Mills helped us peel.  We peeled at the home of Chris and Sharon Siebert, (former members of Zion) just West of Troy.  We peeled seven bushels during the day and five bushels that evening.  We made 164 ½ quarts.

We have been making it for 35 years now. It has continued to be an enjoyable event at Zion church all these years.  Enjoyable, well yes, maybe stressful at times I would say; Like this year…rain, rain go away we want to cook apple butter.   Or, help, help we need more help.

The largest amount we have made was last year 2011. We made 681 quarts. This took lots of jars and lids. That would have been a total of 1,247 lids and jars. Gallons compared to early years. This would be 170 1/4 gallons. Gathering up the jars has always been a task. We have to buy so many now and that really adds to our expense.

The availability of apples always was an important factor. Can’t make apple butter without apples. This has not always been easy.

We bought apples from Apple Dora at Wentzville for a number of years until she went out of business. We looked for a new source. We ended up going to different orchards in Illinois.

Apples have gone up from free (no charge) to $6 at Apple Dora’s at Wentzville to $30 a bushel this year.

Of course the price of sugar has increased also.  In 2001 we started making sugar-free apple butter. This certainly is a much called for item. Now we use one of the biggest kettles we have.

The biggest yield was in 1983. We always peel and grind on Friday. That year we couldn’t finish the washing and grinding so we completed the process on Saturday morning.  “Find another grinder???” was the statement made at the end of day. We averaged 14 quarts per bushel. We made 92 gallon that year.

We always had to make sure we kept back 15 quarts for the sausage dinner the next spring.  We had to hide them immediately so they wouldn’t be sold.   Always had special orders for these and many bought these at our Annual Bazaar and Mittaguessen.

After securing apples the next important step is to be sure we have plenty of kettles on hand. Marvin Bueneman provided us with kettles every year.  Many families have added kettles to the making now. For your info these are the other families whose kettles we have used: Isabelle Meyers/Mulherin, Ernie Justus, Marcella Dunard, Russell Hardy, Fred Wehmeyer, Bruce Schuette, Kermet Wiemann, Martin Dunard, Ben Haarmann, Jim Zuroweste, Pheeze Kemper, Don Hechler and Bob Dunard along with the Zion’s kettle.  Now, we don’t use kettles from all these families now because we have gone to using larger kettles.

The peeling process has changed throughout the years. The men would mechanically peel first. We had three peelers to start out with.

We recently have gone to 30 peelers and all the apples are peeled, cored and sliced.  This process made it easier to peel a larger number of bushels. Friday peeling is still a very long day.

Oh now wait a minute, the peeling and grinding is done, but oh how sticky those floors are. Thanks to those tired people for hanging around and mopping. Sure makes for a better day Saturday.

Cooking always started at daybreak. If we said we would not start until 5:30 or 6 a.m. well, you might as well count on Uncle Marvin Bueneman being at church shortly after 4:30.  We could always depend on Briggs Cragen and Uncle Marvin for having a trailer of dried wood Talk to them in the late summer and Roger and Julie Bolle are busy also cutting and loading the wood for apple butter.

Fires are started and you must be careful the fire isn’t too hot. He sure didn’t want any scorched apple butter and besides that it would ruin his kettle. That is why we are walking around saying “keep on stirring” make that circle eight.

We’ve done pretty well with the cooking over these past 35 years…oh maybe we did dump one kettle some years ago.

The biggest yield was in 1983.  We averaged 14 quarts per bushel.  We made 92 gallon that year.

Zion people need food and fellowship for every project we do. This certainly makes the day much more enjoyable.  It is so nice to post a notice on the bulletin board and here comes the food.  Would you believe some of the same people have been making a pot of chicken soup, vegetable soup or chili all these years?

Of course the desserts are always delicious because these are Zion people making them.

Juicy burgers are quite the hit on Saturdays.  In fact, Mary Anne made sure the juicy burger recipe ended up in the new addition to the cookbook. I can remember Carolyn Wermuth standing in the kitchen over the sink all day long waiting for the last pot or the last jar to be washed.

We take pride in our labels placing bright red shiny apple on it.  This year we added our special 125th Anniversary label…Then the Health Department decided we should add a label that list the ingredients…well there goes our recipe and our pretty jar.

Now it is time to fill those 1,200 jars.  We have a process and it seems to work well.  Each one knows who is going to fill the jars and who is going to put the lids on and tighten the lid. Wipe them off and get them in the hall quickly for those labels to be put on. The counting process begins and we know exactly how many quarts each kettle produces.

It takes a tremendous amount of people to process apple butter making. It has been a wonderful tradition that has carried on all these years and the beauty part of it, is the fact that nearly every able bodied person from young to old help with the making along with friends, neighbors and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

As well as I can remember we were only rained out once.  One time I recall cooking on Sunday. We sure did have a lot of help.

And they made a lot.  Come to think of it.  One year we had extra orders and we did make two weekends in a row.

To the best of my knowledge we have made a total of ARE YOU READY 15,581 quarts or you might say 3,895 gallons. ARE YOU TIRED? Well, You should be. All I can say, is good thing we only make once a year and not like our ancestors who were called upon to make a couple of times each year.  And they made a lot.

I just want to say once again “thanks for your support” because without YOU the tradition of apple butter making would not happen. I look forward to helping for many more years and certainly hope we can carry on the tradition of APPLE BUTTER MAKING AT ZION CHURCH.

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