The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Feels Like Applebutter Time

By Sidney P. Sanford © 1995

Issue: Winter, 1995

There's a certain feeling I get when the seasons change. Especially when autumn reaches a high note and winter suddenly sinks her teeth into the late days of fall. My spirits rise up causing me to become restless and my thoughts just can't sit still. "Feels like applebutter time!" my Maw would say about this time of year. Those very words would send me to drooling and my taste buds just couldn't wait to be tickled with Maw's homemade applebutter.

I never will forget being a kid during this particular time of year. Maw was big on the holiday spirit and once the leaves were all gone all us kids knew it wouldn't be long 'til she'd start humming Jingle Bells or Silent Night and begin preparing those five pound fruit cakes for Christmas Gifts. I never did like the awful taste her fruit cake left behind, but everyone around said they were the best they'd ever tasted and no store bought fruit cake could compare. Even though I didn't take much of a likin' to Maw's fruit cakes, the aroma of spice and rum lit up my insides 'cause I knew what to expect next. After the humming and those wonderful smells, she'd soon chuckle to herself and pull out a quart jar of her homemade applebutter she'd put back during the past summer. We'd each get a big helping of that delicious thick jam on hot biscuits at breakfast and not a trace of the sweet and spicy brown sauce would be left on our plates.

Along about two weeks before Christmas, Maw would make her special applebutter cakes. I used to watch close-by, making sure to stay out of her way while I inhaled the pleasing whiffs of layered graham crackers and applebutter. Maw would always tell us to stay away from her cake until it was set and ready to eat after dinner the next day. The temptation was just too overwhelming and I was the one who usually got caught with my finger in the applebutter cake.

As Christmas Day approached, all us kids had the tree re-decorated several times or carefully shaking the packages while trying to guess what was inside. If I wasn't among the excitement around the tree, I was sneaking a taste of one of Maw's wonderful applebutter desserts. She was always right on schedule with her famous applebutter gravy. On Christmas Eve, she would spend all morning stirring a pot of applebutter and adding cider until it tasted just right. After all us kids finished our vegetable beef stew at lunch time, she'd give each of us a slice of fresh baked pound cake and smother it with applebutter gravy. It was delicious and I savored each and every bite.

My Maw is gone now and the kids are grown and live far away from the old homeplace. Whenever an occasion pops up like one of the nieces or nephews graduates or perhaps a family reunion, all us kids get together and speak of the applebutter days of our childhood and recall how Maw made the holiday so special. Even now when the weather's just right and there's no leaves left on the trees, I can still hear Maw calling out from the past "Feels like applebutter time," and those wonderful smells of spice, apples, and rum seem to fill the air making me drool for some of that homemade applebutter.