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Fall tradition continues at fire department

By Staff | Nov 3, 2017

Chronicle photo by Toni Milbourne Jefferson High School football coach Craig Hunter, left, takes a turn stirring apple butter on Saturday at the Shepherdstown Volunteer Fire Department.

Early Saturday morning, members of the Shepherdstown Volunteer Fire Department were joined by community volunteers to continue cooking apple butter at 28th annual Apple Butter Festival. The event, which was held at the fire station off W.Va. 45, went on all day, in efforts to raise money for the department.

Department President Craig “Twiggy” Simpson shared that he event, while perhaps not the largest fundraiser, is the most labor intensive thing the company does.

“We started cooking about 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning,” Simpson said.

He said that finishing time would depend on how the kettles cooked down. There are 20 kettles, some that are equipped with automatic stirrers and others that are stirred by volunteers.

“Jefferson High’s baseball, softball and football teams all help,” said Marshall DeMeritt, EMS Chief for the department. He said that sororities and fraternities from Shepherd University also send volunteers and members of the community at large come help.

One volunteer, Arnold Wright, of Shepherdstown, said he has been helping stir apple butter for many years.

“I’m not a member,” Wright said. “I just do it to help out.”

Denny Barron, treasurer of has shared the history of the process each year, indicating that the company uses around 3,200 pounds of sugar and approximately 210 bushels of apples to make an average of 4,200 to 4,500 jars of the apple butter.

The original recipe for the company’s apple butter came from Naomi Miller who helped the crew get started way back in 1990. Miller was sister to AnnaBelle Osbourn, of Shepherdstown, Barron has shared.

We don’t use dry spices, only oil. It has a stronger flavor and we don’t have to use as much,” Simpson said. He went on to explain that is easier to blend the oil when cooking.

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.

New member Steve Matson was experiencing his first apple butter festival.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to help before,” Matson said.

He was taking his turn stirring one of the many kettles that were situated throughout the department’s equipment bay.

“We don’t take pre-orders,” Simpson said, because of the labor intensive process. He said that if pre-orders were done, it would involve another round of cooking to produce enough jars. “We made six kettles on Tuesday and Wednesday, including one day’s production of sugar-free product.”

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.

Shepherdstown Fire Department’s apple butter is available for purchase at Betty’s Restaurant and the Jefferson Security Bank as well as the department. The apple butter is being sold for $8 a quart with both sugar and sugar free options.