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Annual festival attracts a crowd

October 12, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Peering into a large kettle being stirred by David Rankin, people tried to guess its contents.

Chili? Spaghetti sauce? Beans?

With a shake of his head, Rankin could only wonder what the people were thinking. Perhaps they didn't realize they'd parked what seemed like a mile away and battled scores of people in downtown Berkeley Springs to attend the 30th Annual Apple Butter Festival.

That reddish-brown, thick concoction in the kettle was about 25 gallons of apple butter.

Volunteers with the Pleasant View Community Center starting throwing logs under the kettle at 5:30 a.m. Saturday. Apples were peeled, cored, ground and thrown into the pot.

About six hours later, scoops of sugar carefully were added. Liquid cloves and cinnamon rounded out the recipe.

Pennies (washed beforehand) were placed on the bottom of the copper kettle. They, along with nonstop stirring, prevent the apple butter from sticking to the kettle.

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A line started to form around the community center's tent. Although previously made apple butter was for sale, some insist on having it hot and fresh from the kettle. Rankin said he's seen people wait for two hours.

Apple butter is a staple in the Rankin house.

"There isn't too many times at the dinner table it isn't on the table," he said.

Across the street were David and Louise Yost, who have been making apple butter for 10 years.

"Long cooking is the secret, I believe," Louise Yost said.

Using a mixture of apples and cooking over gas, the Yosts stew each batch of their butter for 10 hours.

With a little ingenuity, David Yost fashioned an electric stirrer to prevent strain on the muscles of him and any family members the Yosts coax into helping.

Each fall, the Yosts make around 250 gallons of apple butter, some of which is shipped to loyal customers.

Louise Yost said her favorite way to eat apple butter is to warm it and spread it over vanilla ice cream.

Sam White was one of the many people who bought a jar of apple butter from the Yosts. A self-described connoisseur of apple butter, he said theirs is the best.

Along with spreading the apple butter over crackers or bread, White said the only way he can stomach cottage cheese is to mix in apple butter.

While her husband waited in line to buy a few jars of the hot, fresh apple butter, Jennifer Lally waited with the couple's children. It was Lally's first visit to the festival.

Her daughter, Rachel Bailey, 10, said she prefers to eat apple butter on bread, over a layer of regular butter.

Aside from new entertainment planned for today and new T-shirts available, festival organizers purposely do not alter much. Vendors set up in the same spots, every year a quilt is raffled off and each festival features a turtle race, beard contest, egg toss and hog-calling contest.

People become upset when the festival is not as they remember.

"We try very hard not to change anything," said Jeannie Mozier, the Voice of the Festival, who handles publicity for the event and emcees the festival's contests.

When someone has a question about the festival, it's often to Mozier that fingers point. She and the festival have been together since 1978.

So how often does she partake in the festival's namesake?

"Never," Mozier said with a hearty laugh. "I'm not really a jam or jelly person."

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