Volume VII, No. 3, Spring 1980
Take a look at the front cover photo of John Playter stirring a huge copper kettle full of steaming apples. Now turn to the story beginning on page 16 entitled, "Copper Kettle Magic." Notice the colorful pictures of apples and people and copper kettles which illustrate the different steps in the process of making apple butter that we learned about when we traveled to John and Charlene's home. Since the Playters have been making apple butter each fall since 1956 or '57 in a forty-gallon copper kettle on an open fire, they were the perfect people to talk to.
Arriving at dinner time on a crisp October evening, we met the Playters for the first time. After introductions, we began the first step--cutting the apples, bushels and bushels of them. The Playters made us feel welcome as they showed us their method. Tracy, co-author of the story, said, "They made us feel comfortable, as if we'd known them for a long time." Kathy added, "It was like we were personal friends of their family, and we had only met them thirty minutes before." We worked and visited until 10:30 when all the apples were finished.
Early the next morning we began helping John and Charlene and their family and friends actually make the apple butter. It was an unusually warm day, and so windy that walnut and persimmon leaves kept falling into the steaming apples cooking in the big copper kettle. The fire under the kettle glowed a deeper red-orange at every gust of wind. Everyone worked together stirring the apples nonstop, laughing and visiting all the while, each experiencing a sense of comaraderie. The procession of friends and neighbors dropping by for a few minutes to stir-or offer advice lasted all day long. So did the Playter's hospitality. After talking and working awhile, they frequently offered us a banquet of meals and refreshments--rolls, roast, soup, lasagna, cake, fruit and snacks of all kinds, chips, cheeses and pickles. We became part of the family, eating with them, meeting their friends and helping with their annual project.
Finally, after the last lids were sealed on the glass jars, when the fire had burned down to glowing coals and the afternoon had turned chilly, we were finished. We all excitedly trooped into the house with a sense of accomplishment at having converted the bushels of jonathan apples into thick, aromatic apple butter. Charlene insisted that we stay to sample what we had worked so hard to make. It was impossible to resist the steamy, flaky, homemade drop biscuits dripping with butter and topped with the still warm apple butter, so sweet and spicy it melted in our mouths. Savoring the last bite and reflecting upon all we had learned about the art of making apple butter, we realized we had also learned about sincere Ozark hospitality. We made more than 172 pints of delectable apple butter. We made friends.
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