In 1932, a small booklet titled “Stories of Pioneer Days in La Salle County, Illinois” was produced by the grammar school students of the village and rural schools of the county. 14-year-old Virginia Esmond wrote of happy famiiy times on the Furr farm, the property of her great-grandparents, Squire Newton Furr and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Bruner.
APPLE BUTTER TIME
by Virginia Anne Esmond, Dist. 142.
There was great excitement in the house. Tomorrow was to be the great boiling down of the apples to make apple butter at my Great-grandmother Furr’s home.
The house was about half a mile west of Dayton. The relatives were to come in the morning and stay all day to help. The men were out in the orchard getting apples to use. Romany apples were the kind used. They were excellent for eating and cooking. When stored in barrels in the basement they lasted till the next summer. Some of the smaller cousins were helping pick up apples, too. Some of the windfalls were used in making cider in great-grandmother’s cider presses. She had two of them.
People used to come from miles around with wagon loads of apples to be made into cider. In later years when the grist mill at Dayton ground apples and pressed out the juice for cider the people used to take their apples over there and have them ground. Eventually my great-grandmother did, too.
The best apples on the ground were used to make apple butter. The cider was made and boiled down. The stirrers, which are long wooden paddles with handles set in them at right angles, long enough to keep the person stirring from getting too hot, were made from the wood of a large maple tree that had been injured when the crib burned down.
Early the next morning the boys were in the orchard picking up more apples.
Somebody had to go to town to get the relatives that were to help. When they arrived they exchanged greetings, as they hadn’t seen each other probably for quite a while. They set to work washing apples. After they were washed, the young folks peeled them with two peelers. The young people thought it quite a bit of fun to turn the crank on the peelers, but the novelty wore off before the apples were all peeled. The older folk sat down and cored the peeled apples.
Some cider was put in the boilers to keep the apples from burning. As soon as the apples were peeled and cored they were popped into the boilers. They kept on boiling down. As soon as the boilers were filled enough so that they wouldn’t boil down much more, the young folks went out in the pasture to catch old “Dexter.” The city cousins considered riding old “Dexter” much fun, even if he was a driving horse instead of a riding horse. Two or three of the young folks got on the horse at once.
Much of the time was spent also by the young people in rambling over the farm and sometimes sliding down the strawstacks. Also amusement could be found in the barn, both in the hay loft and in where the animals were.
The men worked in the fields after carrying in apples by the basketful. Each one of the younger folks took his turn stirring the boiling apples.
The women had a sociable time preparing dinner. The relatives stayed to supper that the women had prepared. After supper the visitors usually went home and the women at grandmother’s finished the work.
They took the apple butter off the stove at about nine o’clock. Then it had to be put in crockery jars about ten inches high. A cork fitted into the top that was about half an inch thick. This was sealed with sealing wax. A few days later the butter was distributed and each family took some home. Everyone that had helped make the apple butter could be reminded of a pleasant day at Grandma Furr’s whenever they tasted of the butter.