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RECIPE: The Apple Butter Days of Autumn

September 24, 2014


The Apple Butter Days of Autumn


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



At the autumnal equinox, Wisconsin and the rest of the Midwest certainly begin to roll out a beautiful welcome mat of Mother Nature’s finest hues and fragrances.  I think we are in the midst of one of the nicest stretches of weather of this year.  Despite the abundant sunshine and 70-degree afternoons, the days have snapped to attention with a distinct crispness that naturally lets us succumb to the spells of autumn.  Dry oak leaves have already begun their autumnal dance down the sidewalk as my Leader Dog Zoe tries to maneuver us out of the way of the leafy dancers.


Of course, my autumnal thoughts drift back to my home state of Indiana.  The Hoosier State’s Brown County is one of the most beautiful and picturesque counties for enjoying autumn’s glory.  From Bloomington,  Indiana, you can take a winding road through some Hoosier hills bedecked with gold, amber, yellow, orange, russet, and red leafscapes to the quaint town of Nashville, Indiana.  When my sister was earning her master’s degree at Indiana University and when she was teaching at an elementary school in Bloomington, we thoroughly enjoyed periodic visits to Nashville, Indiana, to check out the little shops and have some good food.  One of our favorite spots was the Brown County Inn, whose restaurant served and store sold delicious jars of apple butter–a great autumnal treat.  Although my older sister and I were accustomed to the apple butter sold in our grandmother and uncle’s grocery store, the apple butter at the Brown County Inn tasted homemade and was richer with spices.  With this apple butter in mind, my sister was pleased to be given a relatively easy recipe for apple butter by a friend who was a dental hygienist in Bloomington.


Since acquiring the following recipe around 1972, my sister has rarely missed an autumn of making apple butter.  (I have made this recipe only a couple of times.)  Instead of just once a year, Mary made the homemade apple butter recipe two or three times during some years.  Besides preparing the apple butter for her own family, she has made the treat for Christmas gifts or other gifts for family, neighbors, and friends.  Many times, I have been a happy and grateful recipient of Mary’s jars of apple butter.  Additionally, since 2002, Mary has been making apple butter for her pre-kindergarten students each fall semester.


With apples as a theme of one of Mary Elizabeth’s instructional units each school year, her four-year-old students have an opportunity to taste her homemade apple butter on bread or crackers.  At the onset of the educational unit, her students know a variety of foods made with apples; but few of her pre-kindergarteners are familiar with apple butter.  Rather than imagining the apple butter’s being similar to applesauce, some of her preschool students think of a stick of butter flavored with apple.  Mary also explained that some students are hesitant to taste the apple butter, so she encourages the reluctant taster to take just a tiny “mouse” bite.  Well, that little bite leads to another and then a request for more.  My sister noted that many of her students have asked for the recipe and that quite a number of her students’ parents have made the following apple butter recipe.



Mary’s Southern Indiana Apple Butter


(from the Colorado Kitchen of Mary E. Massa Fanyo)


  1. Wash, core, and quarter one gallon of apples; do not peel the apples. (NOTE: My sister recommends using either McIntosh or Jonathan apples for the best flavor, texture, and color of apple butter.)


  1. To the apples, add three and one-half cups to four cups of sugar and three tablespoons of ground cinnamon.


  1. Cover the container of sugared and spiced apples; let stand overnight.


  1. The next day, place the apples in a large pot and bring to a boil.


  1. Cover and let simmer for three hours on low heat.


  1. Place clean jars, lids, and rings into a pan of water; bring to a boil. Allow to boil softly while preparing the mixture (step 7).


  1. Place mixture (by small amounts) into a colander or Foley food mill until all is pressed into apple butter.


  1. Using kitchen tongs, very carefully remove a glass jar from the hot water. Using an oven mitt or hot pad for holding onto the hot jar, spoon the apple butter into decorator glass jars. (To obtain a proper seal for each jar, do not overfill with apple butter; and wipe off any apple butter from the rim of the jar.)


  1. Using tongs, carefully remove a lid and a ring from the hot water; dry each with a paper towel. Carefully place a hot lid and a ring securely on each jar; turn each jar upside down for only a few seconds.


10. Allow jars of apple butter to cool right side up on countertop; each jar will make a popping sound when it seals. (Count each pop to be certain that all jars have sealed.  If one jar does not seal well, place it in the refrigerator and enjoy eating this jar of apple butter first.  Well-sealed jars will keep in the pantry for six to twelve months.)


YIELD: Six 12-ounce jars of apple butter and a house filled with the lovely autumnal scent of apples and spice!


Happy “Apple Butter Days” of Autumn!

Alice and Zoe


P.S. A special thanks to my sister for sharing her recipe and thoughts about these “Apple Butter Days.”  (I would thank her even more if she would make some plum butter.)


September 24, 2014, Wednesday



From → Uncategorized

  1. Carole permalink

    Mmmm–my mouth is watering! Thanks, Alice and Mary, for the beautiful story and recipe!

  2. One of the aides who gave Bill his showers while I was caring for him at home brought us a jar of homemade apple butter one fall, and Bill loved it. I appreciate the recipe, but although I like apple butter, I doubt I’ll take the time to make it since Bill is no longer around to enjoy it.

  3. I’m forwarding this to my lovely wife, for I too would like a taste of this traditional delight. Thanks for bringing it to life, as you normally tend to do. Hats off to another great post Alice. Thanks.

    Deon Lyons

    • Deon–Thanks for your comment, and please let me know if Lynne makes the recipe and if you like it. Happy Autumn! Alice

  4. Another success–today my prekindergarten students enjoyed having apple butter on crackers for a morning snack! Once again, the children wanted me to share the recipe with their mothers, which I most certainly will do.
    Love, Mary

  5. The first batch of apple butter for this fall season yielded 8 eight-ounce jars for me to share and enjoy.

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