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Stories from Cummins Nursery

About Cummins >> A family business >>Stories >> Dad's Corner

This is a section of Cummins Nursery dedicated to stories (mostly in some way connected to fruit and/or farming). We are open to stories you send in as well!!!

Kicking Leaves in Mr. Gage's Orchard | The Drive from Kinmundy | The Yellow Transparent Orchard | The Spray Crew |Hoodlin' |Loading Reefers | Ben Davis | Thirsty Cider | Backyard Orchards | Dad, Peeling Apples | Little Pearl and the Hot Box | Applebutter Time


 "Smoke follows beauty, Smoke follows beauty!!", ol' Miz Wilson cackled as she stirred the apple butter with the long wooden paddle.  "Smoke follows beauty", she whooped as the wind-switch brought the pungent woodsmoke into her eyes.  The Ladies' Aid and Quilting Society of the Dix Southern Methodist Episcopal Church was in session behind our apple packing shed.  Every November the Ladies' Aid made apple butter to sell at their Christmas Bazaar, and today the apple yard was filled with ladies in sunbonnets.  Four huge copper kettles boiled on wood fires, copper kettles filled with sliced-up apples simmering in the sun.

 The Ladies' Aid and Quilting Society had met at Grandmother's house two weeks ago to finalize their plans for the apple butter stirring, and I'd listened a few minutes to their talk.  Most of that talk was about some other ladies, of course, ladies not present, but some of the talk did have to do with the apple butter fixings.  Now they were here and the apple butter was well started already. 

Granddad had brought over a whole wagonload of apples yesterday -- Jonathan and Grimes Golden, Roxbury Russet to give it flavor, and Ben Davis and Gano for body.  There must have been a dozen ladies under the big silver maple tree, peeling away at this mass of apples, peeling and talking, with the baskets of apple slices filling beside them. 

 Trevor Jefferies from next door came driving up, a dozen jugs of newmade cider on his buckboard.  Grandmother and Florence Holmes supervised the unloading -- Bob and I were the unloaders -- and Trevor left that crowd of gossiping women like a scared cat.  Bob and I were mostly the firemen at this apple butter stirring.  We kept splitting kindling wood and slipping it under the boiling kettles, with ol' Miz Wilson bossing every move. "Smoke follows beauty, smoke follows beauty", she'd cackle again and again.  Miz Wilson must have been a hundred and two years old, at least, and I didn't think she had likely had much beauty ever and she sure didn't now, but the smoke did seem to follow her anyhow. 

  Apples and cider, Jonathan and Russets, Grimes and Bens, all into the copper kettles.  Miz Wilson  brought out her secret spice pack, sprinkled the measures into each boiling cauldron.  The long wooden stirring paddles scraped incessantly to keep the mix from sticking to the kettle bottoms and scorching;  the ladies took turns at stirring, and Bob and I got drafted occasionally too, but I guess that ol' Miz Wilson didn't really trust our stirring techniques too much;  she put us back to keeping up the fires. 

  All day long we cooked the apple butter;  all day long we fired and stirred, fired and stirred while the ladies, done now with apple peeling, got down to the more serious business of talk.  All day long the apple butter simmered, and now at last at sundown ol' Miz Wilson pronounced it nectar-ready.  The jars came out, green mason jars, all washed and clean and scalded, lined up on wagon top, and now the ladies began the canning -- boiling hot apple butter ladled into the jar, a rubber seal put on, then the zinc lid.  Fast work but careful, no spills with boiling apple butter, and now at last it's done, five hundred jars or more of ol' Miz Wilson's ambrosia.  Five hundred jars of prime apple butter for the Dix Ladies' Aid and Quilting Society's Christmas Bazaar.

--from The Orchard Remembered

Dr. James N. Cummins
Emeritus Professor of Pomology
Cornell University