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Mike Tussey: October means apple butter, pumpkins, goblins, and apple cider

Here in mid October and early Fall, there is something very special amid the turning leaves and cooler temperatures. That certainly would be Apples as they seem to take center stage as a tasty delicacy that reigns supreme.

Sure, there are many ways of enjoying the incomparable apple, but none as delicious as Apple Butter. It’s not earth-shaking; but, I had no idea that Apple Butter originated in Belgium, the Netherland and Germany.

However, we can’t forget the legendary “Johnny Appleseed.” John Chapman (1774-1845) earned that moniker being the man who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia. In fact, Johnny Appleseed also gained credit for inventing that mouth water drink we all know as APPLE CIDER.

1951 vintage family photo — young Mike make apple butter with his grandmother. (Photo provided)

My first taste of Apple Butter came during my youth and mid-October in the late 1940’s and early 50’s. My grandmother would begin her annual gatherings of all the ingredients and in a blink of your eye, it was Apple Butter time.

So, what exactly is this incredible autumn treat we have come not only to know, but yearn for as well? Basically, it’s a highly concentrated form of apple sauce produced by long and slow cooking of apples with apple juice and water. The cooking continues to a point when the sugar in the apples caramelizes that turns the Apple Butter to a deep brown color. The concentration of sugar give Apple Butter a much longer shelf life as it turns into a sauce. One of the great additives to Apple Butter is cinnamon clove seasoning coupled with other spices.

My grandmother seemed to feel that the when mid-October arrived, it was time for our “family tradition” that involved most of our relatives and their assistance. She would contact the family and always schedule the annual ritual of making Apple Butter on a weekend. First, we had to get the giant heavy copper kettle out and clean it up. Wow. Was it heavy. Next, was the building of an open fire in our back yard. 75 years ago, residents could build an open fire if they so desired without any problem. However, eventually the city passed an ordinance banning open burning and subsequently the making of Apple Butter ceased just like that.

I vividly remember that once the cauldron was percolating and bubbling; the creation of our home-made Apple Butter was just moments away. Then my grandmother would give me a Silver Dollar to toss into the kettle for “Good Luck”. Now, we were set and ready to go. Teamwork was absolutely necessary in regard to stirring the Apple Butter with a large paddle with several holes. I remember our shifts usually were about 10 minutes in length and then we would rotate. The need for several assistants to stir was necessary because of the huge amount of labor needed to produce the Apple Butter in large quantities. The idea was simply constant stirring.

Once the Apple Butter was seasoned and ready; the next step was to pour it into jars and it was ready for our enjoyment for months to come
There was always quite a bit left over for sale to the neighbors.

If you would like to try making your own batch, here’s a recipe for Apple Butter that is known as a “Taste of Kentucky” around the Commonwealth:

• ½ bushel apples
• 4 lb of sugar
• 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon of ground spices
• ½ teaspoon of salt
• ¼ cup of red hot candies

The making of Apple Butter is huge here in Kentucky.

In fact, two weeks ago, the 59th 2023 Kentucky Apple Butter Festival was held as usual in Paintsville on the first weekend in October. As usual, thousands attended.

How about on a crispy fall morning you treat yourself to a big hot biscuit and Apple Butter. Scrumptious. Now, that sounds like a great plan.

If you’re not in the “fall mood” by now, you’re missing what autumn brings to us all.

Just so you know, today, October 18 is “St. Luke’s Little Summer.” This brief period celebrates calm-dry weather with the turning of leaf colors into a gorgeous sight. This beautiful time of the year filled with golden days could motivate you and the family to even visit a local park or even take a small trip.

There is plenty of Kentucky Folklore for mid-October for you to love or just wonder about. Such as: When deer are in a gray coat in October, you can expect a very hard winter.

Another folklore thought, a warm October means a very cold February.

Many call this time in mid-October Indian Summer, but according to folklore, that doesn’t happen until November 11-November 20.

Today is Wednesday October 18; for your edification it’s “National Chocolate Cupcake Day. So munch on.

Tomorrow, October 19 is “National New Friends Day.”

Now, you have a great excuse to give them a call and just say hello.

Coming this Sunday October 22 it’s “National Pretzel Day.” It will be a Grand Day to munch on a huge pretzel as you scan the NFL games; the Bengals have a bye Sunday October 22. No matter, that’s OK, go for it. You have special dispensation.

Thursday October 26 is “National Pumpkin Day.” Think about what you can do this day with a pumpkin. You can carve one up, make a pie, or just take a photo of it when it becomes a Jack O’ Lantern.

Coming Sunday October 29 is “National Cat Day.” Calling all black cats, time to prowl and screech.

For Halloween Eve, Monday, October 30 it’s “National Haunted Refrigerator Night.” Have you been hearing strange noises coming from inside your Fridge lately? Could be there are spooks inside, be sure and get a photo. Ghosts get hungry too.

Tuesday, October 31 is set aside for the Grand Finale which we all know as Halloween. Don’t forget, the monsters and spooks will be knocking on your door for treats; turn on your porch lights and enjoy the fun. In most communities, Treat or Treat is set for Halloween from 6-8 p.m. Mark your calendar.

So, here we are, smack dab in the middle of the mystic month of October.

Be sure and make some apple butter, bake a pumpkin pie and love your cat. Don’t forget to check the Fridge for invaders.

So, ready or not, the 2nd half of October is underway.

Buckle Up, go ahead and eat a ton of Apple Butter, and be ready for Trick or Treat.

HALLOWEEN is just 13 days and counting.

All I can give you on behalf of this great month of October, is to wish you and your Ghosts a wonderful haunting time. From my Apple Butter to your Pumpkin.. .BOO!

Mike Tussey has “retired” from a 60-plus-year career as a legendary play-by-play announcer for over 2000 football, baseball, and basketball games, including most recently for ESPN+. His career also includes a stint in law enforcement, teaching and coaching, and writing books, including the “Touchdown Saints.” He grew up in Eastern Kentucky and now lives in Florence with his wife, Jo. He has opened another “Door of Opportunity” and is now a regular columnist for the NKyTribune.

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