When Loretta and I were in Letcher County the second week of October, the Mitchell Boys, Mike and Bib, were making apple butter, the likes of which I hadn’t tasted in at least 40 years. Apple butter that tasted like the kind my mother preserved in dozens of pint Mason jars every fall was the order of the day.
Their other brother, Mark, had scored a couple bushels of Rome Beauties and Wine Saps from his neighbor there in south central Indiana and he and Bib had brought them down to Red Star to fool around with between times when they were not occupied with activities at Blackey Days. Loretta said it was too bad they weren’t selling the apple butter at a booth in Blackey during the celebration because they could have paid for their trip and then some if they had been a little bit more industrious.
As it happened, however, the Mitchell Boys’ recipe involved 24 hours of crock pot cooking and they were rather limited, time-wise, on what they could produce in one trip to Kentucky, but who knows what will happen next year. Suffice to say the apple butter seed has been planted.
Anyway, after going through a pint of the stuff with Nancy’s hot biscuits at my brother, Keeter’s house on Sunday morning, Loretta and I decided we had to make some ourselves. Nancy is Keeter’s wife and sister to the Mitchells which is why she rated her own personal jar of their apple butter. The rest of it was being gobbled up by friends and relatives at her Mom’s home where the boys were staying.
We came home and took a drive over to Brummett’s Orchard in Crab Orchard, only to discover that it is no longer producing after the deaths of former proprietors, Francis and Rovenna Brummett. It never even crossed our mind to pay the scandalous prices apples fetch in supermarkets. Besides that, we can’t find the old fashioned apples required for good apple butter in them anyway and we had our hearts set on a bushel of Grime’s Goldens.
Then, one day last week, when we were in Lancaster taking care of other business, Lo allowed, “that little Amish Produce Place we like might have some apples we could use and actually afford to buy by the bushel.” So, with nothing better to do, we headed south on 39 to Albert Wyler Road which turns off about two miles north of Crab Orchard.
I don’t know the names of the business or its proprietor’s, but its located about half a mile behind and on the same road as the, very visible from 39, Produce Auction business. You’ll see hand painted signs saying “PRODUCE” on the roadside and the building once you get past the Auction grounds and buildings. And, believe me, if you enjoy fresh, mostly grown on the premises, vegetables and fruit, you will never, ever find better stuff at better prices than you’ll find at this little place. We did get his cell number, 606-355-7478.
They had squash, cushaws, cukes, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, peppers, honey, molasses, jams and jellies, etc. and by far the largest sweet potatoes (think football) I’ve ever seen.
Loretta asked the gentleman in charge if he had grown the sweet taters and he said, “Well, I put the plants in the ground, and I dug them up, but I didn’t have much to do with actually growing them. You can thank the soil and the good Lord for that.”
Loretta glanced at me and said, “Remember that the next time you start bragging on what you grew in the garden.”
He also had several varieties of apples that, I suspect, came from Casey County. No Grimes Golden, but we sampled a larger variety called Gold Rush that was close enough so we bought a big box that turned out to be well over a bushel for $16! That figures out to less than a quarter per pound if you’re doing the math. I also bought half a peck ($3) of Cortlands after sampling one and deciding it was the best eating apple I’d ever tasted.
I ate the Cortlands in three days and I’m going back for more which will probably be gone by the time you read this.
In the meantime, I’m waiting for the Mitchell Boys’s apple butter recipe before starting to peel the Gold Rush bonanza. I know it calls for 8 cups of sliced apples, 4 cups of white sugar, 1 cup of brown sugar, 2 tbsp. cinnamon, ½ tbsp. ground cloves, but I don’t know how to process the ingredients and I’m looking to quadruple the recipe two or three times and my kids better start thinking about apple butter. That’s what they’ll be getting for Christmas.
Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Ike Adams at [email protected] or on Facebook or 249 Charlie Brown Road, Paint Lick, KY 40461.