Town buzzes when apple butter boils

Berkeley Springs readies for 32nd annual Apple Butter Festival

Berkeley Springs readies for 32nd annual Apple Butter Festival

October 06, 2005|by KRISTIN WILSON

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Armed with a 50-gallon copper kettle, wooden stirring paddles and dozens of bushels of apples, Sandra Stotler is ready to continue a family tradition this weekend, cooking up countless pints and quarts of apple butter.

The Stotlers will be just one of a handful of apple butter makers calling on volunteers to help stir their boiling caldrons this weekend as part of the 32nd annual Apple Butter Festival in Berkeley Springs.

"Apple butter has certainly become a tradition here," says Beth Curtin, director of the Berkeley Springs-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the festival. Curtain says the annual festival "is like a big kettle that is a melting pot of different events. It's sort of a little county fair. There are contests and games for entertainment. It's a little bit of a carnival, it's a little bit of an arts and crafts festival ... and it's this huge homecoming event." Curtain says residents of the area often invite friends and family to visit during the festival.


About 35,000 people are expected to attend the two-day event, Curtain says.

The apple butter makers set up their big pots over gas or wood fire heat in downtown Berkeley Springs, Stotler explains. They cook the apples for about six hours until all the water has evaporated out of the fruit. Then, cooks dump from 80 to 90 pounds of sugar into their 50-gallon batch.

The apple butter kettles come with long-handled wooden paddles to help stir the apple butter as it is cooking. While it must be stirred throughout the six- to eight-hour cooking process, it is most critical to stir it continuously once the sugar is added, Stotler says.

"Once that sugar goes in, you cannot lollygag at all. You have to constantly be watching it," she says. That's because the sugar can stick to the bottom of the kettle, burning the boiling apple butter.

After about an hour, spices, including cloves and cinnamon, are added to the large pots.

Festival spectators are invited to take turns stirring the apple butter, Stotler says. They can then purchase the butter they helped make.

The name of the feature product at the Apple Butter Festival is deceiving. There is no butter at all used in the recipe, Stotler says. She thinks the treat is called "butter" because it spreads like butter and is often eaten on bread or pancakes.

"You can get real inventive" when it comes to eating apple butter, Stotler says. She has a friend who developed a recipe for apple butter cake and knows of people who mix it with cottage cheese.

One of her favorite ways to eat the spread is with homemade fried bread dough.

Making the apple butter "is quite a procedure," Curtain says. "It's something to stand there by the fire and to smell the aroma, understanding it has to be stirred for all of those hours. There are always these long lines of people. Some people are really into having the apple butter straight out of the kettle."

While apple butter might be the focus of the festival, there are plenty of other activities to entertain crowds, Curtain says.

  • At 9 a.m. Saturday, The Best of Berkeley Springs parade will move from Berkeley Springs High School through the town square, ending at the old train station on Williams Street. Prizes will be awarded.

  • A "bring your own turtle" race is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday. "You have to bring your own racer," Curtain says. In past years, people have brought turtles to race dressed up in athletic attire.

  • The Beard and Mustache Contest will kick off at 2:50 p.m. Saturday at the Berkeley Springs State Park bandstand. Prizes will be given for the shaggiest, best groomed and longest beard or mustache. "You just have to have whiskers to show up," Curtain says.

  • An Egg Toss contest is planned for 1:15 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9, at the park bandstand.

  • The annual Hog Calling Contest will kick off at 2:15 p.m. Sunday. This is a must-see event, Curtain says. "The hog calling is huge. Some people come in costumes, they are very inventive."

  • Throughout the weekend, festival-goers can taste country and fair-style foods and check out more than 100 traditional artists and arts and crafts vendors. A special art exhibit called "Bountiful Harvest" highlights food-related art and is opening at the Ice House Gallery during the weekend.

  • Games, contests and children's rides will be spread throughout the festival.

  • A farmers market will sell fresh apple cider, local produce, honey and preserves.

  • Musical entertainment will be provided by the Dixieland jazz group The Professors at 11:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. Saturday. Critton Hollow String Band, playing old-time music, will perform at 2 and 3:15 p.m. Saturday and Red Moon, a bluegrass band, will play at 1 and 2:45 p.m. Sunday.

The Stotler family has been at every Apple Butter Festival except for one and says the event is "like a holiday" for the town.

"We're exhausted at the end of it, but it's a lot of fun," she says.

If you go ...

WHAT: 32nd annual Apple Butter Festival

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9

WHERE: Throughout Berkeley Springs, including the Berkeley Springs State Park and surrounding streets

COST: Free

DIRECTIONS: Take Interstate 70 west toward Hancock. Take exit 1B and merge onto U.S. 522 south. Continue into Berkeley Springs. Turn left onto Fairfax Street.

MORE: For more information, go to or call 1-800-447-8797.

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