Several weeks ago, Lance and I drove out to a local orchard. When we arrived, a pleasant teenage girl, handed us a map with the location of different apple varieties. The September afternoon was warm and bright as we walked through rows of apple trees. Families, including grandparents with grandchildren, were out enjoying the day. As we searched for Jonathan and Johngold trees, I wished all children had the opportunity to see how apples grow. We picked two bag of apples and drove home past farmers harvesting in the fields.
The next weekend, I made apple butter. As I worked, I thought about my great grandmother and how she preserved fruit in her kitchen. Sometime in the 1890's, she planted fruit trees on the central Nebraska prairie. If she made apple butter, she built a fire in a stove, used a paring knife to prepare the fruit, and spent most of the afternoon feeding the stove while stirring a kettle of apples, sugar, and spices to keep the mixture from scorching. Instead I pushed fruit onto prongs and turned a crank to peel, core, and slice apples. Then I filled a crockpot with sliced apples, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves and plugged it into an electrical outlet.
Twice during the day, I used a potato masher to break down the fruit. After the apples and spices simmered to the right consistency, I ladled apple butter into jars, screwed on lids, and tucked it into the freezer for another day. My great grandmother didn't have a freezer. She had a cave dug into the ground beside her home. When she made preserves or fruit butter, she either melted paraffin to pour on top of the preserves or put the jars through a water bath. Either process required more work over her cook stove.
My great grandmother and I do have a few things in common. Neither of us want anything to go to waste. She fed apple peels and cores to the hogs her husband raised in order to feed their large family. When I finished, I carried the peels and cores to my compost pile. I'm sure my great grandmother also enjoyed the taste of autumn in warm apple butter spread on wheat toast.