I come from a very large family. My mother is one of four children; herself, a sister, a brother and one deceased sister. My father has six brothers and sisters, three of each. I have two siblings, at last ten cousins on each side, my own children, a few nieces, and my cousins have children. Growing up, my families did everything together; pool parties, cookouts, birthdays, holidays, Sunday dinners. Any reason we could find to get together, we did it! One of my fondest memories, though, was of my Grandmother Hurley’s Apple Butter Day. Members from both sides of my family would gather. We would peel, cut and core (well the my mom and aunts would, I was YOUNG!), cook and stir, and can the best apple butter you’ve ever tasted. It was not about how the apple butter tasted, however. The whole day was about family and spending that time together. As Granny got older, Apple Butter Day ceased to exist, along with so many other family traditions. Ten years ago, she passed away taking that recipe and annual event to the grave with her. The family just let it go. Well, a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to bring it back.
I am not even sure what sparked the interest, but somehow I go the idea that my family needed to try to recreate that apple butter. I started talking to my parents and my uncle about the process and everything that this would entail. Granny was an old school cook; every recipe was stored in her head and never written down. Add to that the facts that she never measured anything and the only person who knew how to make this stuff was my aunt Shelb who passed away as well, we were in trouble! We were going to have to wing it! Granny and Shelb controlled the entire process and adding of the ingredients. Everyone else were just helpers. They basically did what Granny told them to do when she told them to do it.
As I continued to talk to everyone about it, there was genuine interest. My daddy informed us that my uncle Charles still had Granny’s big kettle. My uncle Skinny remembered the paddle and told me he could make a new one, and my mom remembered that Granny used cinnamon oil. KEY ASPECTS!!! Family members started to remember little things that gave me hope that we could actually do this. I was excited! My sister and I started looking up recipes and researching apples. I made phone calls, checked schedules, and we set a date. My family was actually overjoyed to make this day happen. There was no doubt in my mind that Granny was up there pulling some strings for me!
Finally the day arrived; October 13th, 2012, Apple Butter Day!! It was a chilly morning, a perfect reminder that Fall was here. The crisp air added to that nostalgic feeling that this day already possessed. My mom, dad, cousin, aunt, children and I had spent the night before peeling, coring and cutting three of the four bushels of apples we bought. The men gathered that morning and started the fire and we started cooking some apples. Making apple butter the old-fashioned way is a an all day job. We started at 8 a.m. and did not finish until around five p.m.. Twenty-five people showed up at my house that day. Every single one of them worked hard to get this process down. My mom and cousin David cooked an amazing lunch for everyone. My cousin Eddie brought cornhole and the kids and adults had a blast trying to master the game. Children ran around the yard, rode bikes, played baseball, football and soccer, and the older girls helped stir the concoction. ( I say concoction because at this point, I have NO clue how it’s going to end up.) We ate, we drank, we laughed!
After all was said and done, the apple butter actually tasted just like my grandmother’s, or so they say, I don’t quite remember how hers tasted. Everyone was very pleased with the outcome. My aunt even made labels that said “Granny Hurley’s Apple Butter (we hope!) I’m so happy we succeeded. At the end of the day, my family had about 120 pints of apple butter to divide and take home. Even more importantly, we had new memories of an old family tradition. I’m positive Granny Hurley was smiling in heaven that day. 🙂
I’d like to thank my family for humoring throughout this process. I’m not sure any of them realized how much it meant to have them all here make this happen. I hope they all know how dear I hold them all to my heart. The day could not have turned out better!!!!