making apple butter

The author remembers her family making apple butter in a copper kettle, like apple butter being made in Akron in this 2014 file photo.

My family's home was at the foothills of the Conocoheague Mountain, located in the Tuscarora State Forest in the western corner of Perry County, before we moved to Lancaster County in 1943.

Our former house was along a rural road between Ickesburg in Perry County and Honey Grove in Juniata County. If my mom, Mary Foose, needed to get in touch with someone, like a doctor when I split my ear after I was running through the house, she waited at the mailbox until the mailman came and then would ask him to call the doctor to come when he arrived at a house with a telephone. 

We had the outhouse down the path toward the barn that housed a couple pigs and a cow. When I would see a snake along the path, I would go tell Mom and she would take a hoe and dispatch that snake. We had rattlers and copperheads up there. Upon arriving at the two-seater outhouse, you would probably find me banging my heels against the sides of the seat and singing in a loud voice to scare away the wasps that had nests on the ceiling.

On butchering day the pigs were slaughtered and the relatives would come and help butcher them, using the big iron kettles with the long paddles to stir the cooking meat. I liked it when they took the boiled fat and squeezed it through the sausage maker until all the fat was out and then opened it to disclose the flattened pork fat cakes; that was tasty eating. 

Then, on another day, relatives all gathered to make apple butter in the big copper kettles, using the long paddles to stir the cooked apples into apple butter. The cow gave us milk each day and that was good — except in the spring when the cow would eat the fresh garlic stems in the field. Then we would drink canned milk, and use it  in our cereal. 

Our drinking water came from a spring up the mountain. Mom, my brother Gerald and I would take the path up to the spring with a large bucket to fetch water. Along the way we would watch out for teaberry plants. In the spring, there were little pink berries and all year there were the shiny leaves we could pick to chew on for the flavor. If you ever find teaberry ice cream, get a cone and you are in for a treat. 

Several skirts were sewn for me from the pretty cloth sacks that flour came in. 

On certain days, Pop (Miles Foose) would borrow mules and go up into the mountain to fell certain trees. Sometimes I got to go along, riding one mule. After sawing off some limbs, Pop would hitch the tree to the mules and we would drag the trunk down to our property where Pop had a little sawmill. There he would place the trunk of the felled tree and remove the bark. That log was then placed on the pile along the road, and eventually the paper mill truck would come along and buy those logs. 

For the longest time, I thought that “Gee” and “Haw” were the names of those mules. 

In 1943, right after the Depression, our family of four moved to Lancaster County, where my Pop had work at the RCA plant on New Holland Pike. He was a steam fitter there until he retired,  and was earning $4.70 an hour at that time. 

He thought he was in the big time.

The author, a 1955 McCaskey High School alumna who lived in West Hempfield Township, recently moved to Tennessee.

 If you know an interesting story, please write it in 600 words or less and send it to Mary Ellen Wright, LNP editorial department, P.O. Box 1328, Lancaster, PA, 17608-1328, email it to features@lnpnews. com. Please include your phone number and the name of the town you live in.

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