Dozens of volunteers worked all week to wash, peel and cut apples in preparation for the 24th annual apple-butter making at Shepherdstown Fire Department. Kettles were fired up by mid-week and were on display all day Saturday during the actual "festival" as many who support the company came out to once again lend a hand.
On Saturday, there were a total of 22 kettles filled with bubbling brown sweetness, filling the air with the spicy and tempting aroma. The kettles filled the company's bays as the fire apparatus was moved outside. The actual cooking of the apple butter had been done outdoors for years; however, according to company treasurer Denny Barron, it moved inside over the past few years so that the event could be held rain or shine.
Garnering the department's treasury more than $17,000 each year, this one-day event is one of the largest fundraisers held by the volunteers.
According to company treasurer Dennis Barron, the crew and volunteers made approximately 4,500 jars of the delicious apple butter.
Throughout the day, as the content of the kettles were tasted and deemed ready for jars, more than 20 volunteers lined up at the "filling station" as a kettle was transported via a fork lift. Pitchers of the sauce were then dipped and poured into clean quart jars. Passing down the assembly line, the jars were wiped to ensure there was no residue along the rim, lids placed, tightened, labels applied and then boxed for sale.
Kenny Barron, member of the company who has worked for many years on the festival, pointed out his table where jars were passed to him to have lids tightened.
"I picked this wooden table and labeled it," he laughed as he pointed out "ABT KB" that had been written with permanent marker. The letters stand for "Apple butter table, Kenny Barron," he shared. Barron said he picked this table because of its smoothness which allows the hot jars to slide easier.
Cost of the quart jars is $7 and the jars are available at the station or at Jefferson Security Bank in Shepherdstown.
Barron shared that 288 bushels of apples were used to prepare the approximately 4,500 jars of apple butter. The apples, procured from Jefferson Orchard, were cut, cooked, sugared and spiced prior to filling jars for patrons.
Added to the apples were sugar and spices including oil of cinnamon and cloves. Barron said that over the years, the apple butter has been made only with Domino's Sugar.
"People have suggested we go with a cheaper generic," Barron said, "but I stick with the Domino's because of the taste."
The original recipe for the company's apple butter, Barron said, came from Naomi Miller who helped the crew get started way back in 1990. Miller was sister to AnnaBelle Osbourn, of Shepherdstown.
Volunteers with the fire department were joined by many others who offered their services to help chop apples, stir and finish the product.
Fire Chief Ross Morgan explained that several groups volunteered during the event. Among them were the Shepherd Volleyball team, the Shepherd Women's Basketball team, Jefferson High's baseball team, the Rotruck family and the Eastern Panhandle Chapter of Alumnae Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
"We couldn't make this happen without all of their help," Morgan said.
In addition to the apple butter, shoppers and visitors could find any number of gift ideas and items at the associated craft fair held inside the station. Baked goods, honey, scarves, jewelry and many more items could be found for purchase just in time for the upcoming holidays.