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THE RECIPE FOR APPLE BUTTER STARTS WITH FAMILY THE DOAK FAMILY TRADITION
The holidays usually center on traditions, and my mom’s side of the family has one every other fall that is indeed something unique. “Apple butter weekend” has been a Doak family staple since 1960, providing a celebration for generations to come together and cultivate a community. My mom was raised in the rolling hills of southeast Ohio, coming from the small town of Waterford. My Uncle Roger and Aunt Shirley actually live in the home she grew up in and serve as the hosts of our family ritual. Since the beginning of time, we’ve gathered together over a copper kettle and hot fire to make apple butter. The recipe and process haven’t changed since I was a kid. From inception to completion, the mixture takes about 10–12 hours to reach fruition and requires stirring all day. Once it’s ready for canning, everyone makes a patriarchal assembly line with the oldest member of the family manning the kettle and the rest of us with jars and lids. Our fearless leader will get the mixture out of the copper cauldron, and it’s up to us to fill mason jars and pass it down the line to store. Once you hear the popping of the seals, the butter — a perfect fall addition to bread, biscuits, or English muffins — is ready to use as you please.
While the tradition centers on a cinnamon, apple-flavored spread, the real purpose of the event is coming together as a group. People come from all over the country to partake in the occasion. We’re in and out of the house all day, watching football and spending time together while strengthening the family bond. It’s about so much more than butter; this gathering really shows you the essentials in life. The kids are taught
values and learn the importance of fellowship. Both my wife and I were able to attend for the first time this year. We met new friends and forged bonds with extended family that we aren’t able to see often. Perhaps above all, when you’re with family, your stress dissipates. There’s no pressure to impress anyone or be anxiously on your toes. You can just exist and take solace in the fact that everyone around you knows and trusts your character. Family conventions might seem monotonous to some, but they can be a fun and enjoyable experience, forming bonds and taking a load off. If you want any apple butter next time we make a family batch, reach out to me, and we’ll add you to the list! My wife is from Indiana, and apparently, they love it on pizza there, so you never know what uses you’ll find for it. The holidays are a particular time that allows us to invest in relationships that matter most. I hope everyone finds joy with your loved ones this season.
— Wes White
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