Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Making of High Quality Apple Butter!

Quote – "When are you going to be making any more of that good apple butter?" (or, "Do you have any more of that good apple butter for sale?") --- summary of inquiries about the annual October apple butter festival in Gipsy PA

I was, and still am, a United Methodist pastor holding ordained elder status in the Western PA Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. I retired after 37 years of active ministry in 1996. Over those years I was pastor of some churches which conducted fund raising events from time to time. In the latter years these usually consisted of dinners and/or bazaar type activities. These were simple to put together and did not require a long period of time, work and preparation.

Three years after retirement I received a phone call from a member of the Gipsy Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) located in Gipsy, Pennsylvania. The people were trying to find a pastor and my name had been passed on to them. I agreed to meet with them to discuss the possibility of working with them as their pastor on a part-time basis. The church is about 27 miles from where our home in the Belsano PA area is located.

In that meeting we reached an agreement with a rather simple “contract” – they can tell me to hit the road any time they want to, and I can walk out the door and never return any time I want to! Annual reporting is also quite simple -- one sheet of paper containing a few numbers given by my church treasurer and some other numbers which I put on it and in about 5 minutes it is on the way to our regional office!

So for nearly 9 years we have been in a ministry involving Gipsy Christian Church. We have been blessed during these years and have seen the church move forward a bit. Some information related to this is given at the church web site, address of which is given below.

One of the activities each fall in October is the making of apple butter the old fashioned way in copper kettles. It is the most ambitious project in which I have ever become involved. It amounts to about 2 weeks or more of preparation until we finally get to the day of our festival, which this year will be on Saturday, October 11, 2008 at our church hall (Gipsy Christian Church Hall) in the village of Gipsy.

We begin with plans outlined by the ladies’ Loyal Berean Class. We travel to Boyer Orchards in south central PA to purchase 42 bushels of a variety of apples, most of which are Macintosh and Cortland. Then these are washed and cut up. We cook them down in turkey cookers and run them through what is known as “squeezos” which extracts seeds and skin, leaving only sauce. Lots of time involved here, but the best is yet to be! At about 4:30 am the fires are started under the kettles which are filled with the sauce and the stirring begins. This is a process that goes on for about 11 or 12 hours with non-stop stirring -- there is always somebody at a kettle moving the paddle back and forth and occasionally in a circular pattern also. Four pennies are in the bottom of each kettle -- these are moved about over the bottom of the kettle by the paddle so that no sticking or scorching of the apple butter will take place. As excess water is boiled off and the sauce thickens, eventually sugar and cinnamon are added. After checking taste and consistency of the now formed apple butter the next stage is canning. The hot apple butter is poured into cans and lids tightened, which will seal upon cooling. It works a bit like an assembly line with each person having a job to do, starting with the filling of each container. Last year we had over 600 jars, consisting of quarts, pints and half-pints. So far this year we have made 7 kettles of apple butter and will be making a partial kettle for demonstration purposes on the day of our festival, October 11th.

It is not that this time consuming project is necessary because the people have to keep the church going with funds received from the festival. Most of the people practice tithing their incomes and the church tithes its income to mission outreach. And from time to time additional support for missions is given beyond the standard tithe taken from the monthly offerings received.

The main benefit is the privilege of working together and the fellowship which results in the congregation truly becoming “family” – the common faith in Jesus Christ which the people share makes this a wonderful experience each year and one to which they look forward with excitement – and perhaps, a little hesitation due to the knowledge of being quite exhausted when the sun finally sets on the day of the festival! But there is a unity of spirit in the venture as the people give liberally of time, abilities and resources. And when the time comes for the sharing of burdens, there is an exhibition of love and concern as the people pray intensely for one another. Likewise, there is much praise given as together we remember how gracious our God has been to all of us.

And then, as time rolls over the coming months, the subject of conversation will again turn to discussion of setting the date and making the plans for the next festival – AND telling people who ask, “Yes, we plan to have some of that good apple butter at our next festival!”

Details of this year’s festival and information related to the church are found at Gipsy Christian Church -- we invite you to stop by if you should be in the area – and be sure to get a jar of apple butter which cannot be duplicated by anything you get in a grocery store anywhere! Oh, yes -- you cannot leave without indulging in some of the delicious food that will be offered and that crowned with a home made apple dumpling or a piece of home made apple pie! Is your mouth watering yet?

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the LORD commanded the blessing; Life forevermore. --- Psalm 133:1-3

No comments: