A nearby neighbor gives me free run of his apple trees. This is the kind of neighbor I like to have! While the “eating” tree has failed to produce much of anything this year, the “cooking” apples are just about right. That means I’ll soon be making applesauce and apple pies. I tried making apple butter once, but I’ve had really good apple butter and you just can’t duplicate it on the stove top (or in the crock pot!). So, apple crumb pie it shall be.
Speaking of really good apple butter–more than a decade ago my husband and I had breakfast in Oxford, MS, as part of a Southern Foodways conference. On the table that morning was a jar of apple butter. As soon as we tasted it, we agreed it was the BEST we’d ever eaten. For me, it hearkened back to the apple butter we used to make in Aunt Bess’ huge copper kettle.
The secret? Oil of cinnamon. None of this ground cinnamon or cinnamon stick nonsense–it was pure oil of cinnamon paired with looooong sloooow cooking that gave the condiment it’s depth.
I put that jar in my purse and once home, read the label carefully. Turned out it had been made in Snowflake, Va. So, next time I drove from NC to WV, I swung by Snowflake which was only a little out of the way.
You’ve heard jokes about small towns. Well, the highway sign for Snowflake is actually printed on both sides. And the only thing there, is the Snowflake General Mercantile. I’m pretty sure it’s closed now, but when I pulled up, they were having some sort of pre-Christmas celebration complete with Dickens carolers.
Inside, it really was a general store with a little bit of everything including a lunch counter and . . . apple butter. They made it from Rome apples growing out back. I bought a case.
When that ran out, I called them up and ordered another case. It was the first and probably only order they ever shipped out. Not long after that, the old folks got old, the young folks moved on, and they stopped making apple butter.
It was a sad day when the last jar in our pantry was empty.