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Fire department kicks off Apple Butter

By Staff | Oct 28, 2011

Members of the Shepherdstown Fire Department prepare for Apple Butter Festival. The event is the biggest single-day fundraiser for the department. (Chronicle photo by Kelly Cambrel)

With the help of members of the community, the Shepherdstown Volunteer Fire Department will hold its annual Apple Butter Festival Saturday, Oct. 29.

Danny Marken, who retired from the fire Department in January has been helping make apple butter for at least 20 years.

For the better part of those years, it’s been Marken’s job to push every cut apple through a grinder making it into apple sauce.

Marken explained that only one grinder is used because they’re “a monster to clean,” and he stands for 14 hours each day pushing every apple through.

He said he’s developed only one special technique for grinding.

“Keep it moving and don’t run the bucket over,” he said.

Craig Simpson, assistant fire chief, first suggested the department produce apple butter as a fundraiser 22 years ago.

Simpson explained that he thought of the idea after making apple butter as part of his high school’s Future Farmers of America club.

The first year, the fire department produced eight to 10 kettles of apple butter total.

The company now produces between 30 and 33 kettles each year.

“People will start calling in fall and asking when we’re going to make it,” Simpson said.

According to firefighter Dennis Barron, who worked to steam all the apples this year, the fire department raised $17,000 last year, and he’s optimistic that the department will do even better this year.

Doug Pittinger, volunteer firefighter and event organizer, said that 324 bushels of apples have been brought in to produce about 4,500 quarts of apple butter.

On Saturday it will take eight to 10 hours to cook one kettle of apple butter, after which sugar and spices will be added.

The organizers began cooking apple butter on Tuesday in about a half a dozen kettles fashioned with motorized stirrers that members of the fire department have rigged up over the years.

The majority of the apple butter will be hand-stirred on Saturday during the fire department’s day-long festival.

“Saturday we’ll do a minimum of 20 kettles,” Pittinger said.

Members of SU’s women’s volleyball, softball and basketball teams, as well as retired community members and other volunteers, helped chop apples.

On Saturday the Washington High School Decca Club as well as Martinsburg’s Future Farmers of America club will help prepare and sell the apple butter.

Pittinger stressed how important community help has been in making the fundraiser possible year after year.

“It’s such a major undertaking. Without the outside agencies, we’d never be able to accomplish it,” he said.

The event will be held at the fire station on Route 45, just west of downtown Shepherdstown. Breakfast will be for sale from 6 to 11 a.m. Lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m. Arts and crafts and bake sale items will also sold at the festival.