Heritage apple butter (washday)


The story ‘Wash day’  is taken From my book, cooking with Maw Maw that I posted on 4/7/12


“When you hear the term ‘wash day’, you get the idea that one day a week is set aside for laundry chores. Back then, nothing could be further from the truth.

Laundry was an ongoing process. Soaking, washing, ringing, hanging, folding and that was just washing, ironing was another whole day!  Remember those old bushel baskets you used to get from the market each time you bought 4 pecks of apples? No? Let me refresh your memory some. A peck is one of those small cardboard carrying baskets with a wire handle that you see sometimes holding fruit or vegetables. Lots of times it’s tomatoes, peaches or apples. A peck is equal to two gallons, so a bushel equals four pecks or eight gallons, Got that?

Back then, we recycled everything we could. Jars held nails and screws, catalogs was toilet tissue, wood cask was filled with kindling for the cook stove and bushel baskets held laundry. It was like they was made for that purpose. Laundry was a bit wetter after washing because we had no spinning drum to dry them. Plastic hadn’t been invented yet and a metal bucket would have made rust spots on the wet laundry. Them wooden slatted bushel baskets was perfect, even had wire handles on ’em. They never rusted nor was bothered if they got soaking wet. Then they would air dry and the same basket would be used when hauling laundry off the clothes line. I think the folks who sold fruit vegetables was quite aware of the after use of these baskets so they made sure they was stamped permanent like with their company names on them. My favorite was peaches from Northern Ohio. That basket had a paper image of a young lady in a swim suite glued to the basket. She was facing away with a big ‘ol sun hat on her head while lookin’ backwards at you. Her bottom was the image of a peach! Cute it was.

I’m not going to go into the actual functions of doing the laundry but let me mention the wringer washer I got in ’40  from my Henry. I assume you all know what a wringer washer looks like. That big  head with the wringers on it was as dangerous as a fan without a guard. (we had them too!)

It was a design in genius though. Water logged clothes could be pulled right from the tub and guided right into the wringer head. Those two rollers would grab the laundry and squeeze harder than any hand wringing could ever achieve. We truly thought it was the greatest thing…until you got distracted and suddenly found your finger getting nipped. How many times my hand was drawn into that wringer, I could never begin to count. When that occurred, you had only a second to reach over and to the reverse lever handle to get them rollers spinning the other way. A few times I found my entire hand being squished but good before I was able throw the lever with it’s red ball on top into reverse. It was a painful experience and many a hand was broken back then.

My eldest boy once got his younger brother caught up in it and broke the arm on him. He may have been dumb in his actions but was smart enough to realize if the electric plug was pulled out, the machine would stop. It did and I came a runnin’ when I heard the bloody howling going on from the back of the house. If it had been in the basement, I never would a heard it and my young one would have suffered a lot longer before being released. As it was, being summer it was outside. Each spring, Henry would drag the thing outside on the back porch and under it’s roof for me. Come winter, I made a spot for it in the pantry room as Henry added a floor drain under a hose bibb. Climbing basement stairs with a load of laundry never appealed to me and since there was little in the way of ventilation, it would have turned that basement into a sweat lodge anyhow.

But it is the smell of the sun dried laundry I miss the most. A gentle breeze from the west would bring the smell of pasture grass, from the south, honey suckle. There was no need for smelly dryer sheets back then. Nothing compared to climbing into a fresh bed at night smelling Gods fresh air trapped in that soft sun dried cotton as you drifted off to sleep.

Speaking of good smells, making fresh made apple sauce and apple butter stirs up a whole house full of ’em. Try this easy recipe and you’ll never buy the store bought stuff again.”


“ When company is over and it’s going to be a late dinner, I set out fresh baked biscuits with a tub of Apple butter to spread on ‘em. It’s very down home and better than any fancy hor dourves in my book!”

4 cups applesauce,  *My recipe follows for making homemade applesauce. (Use unsweetened or natural without added sugar if using store bought)

2 cups of white table sugar

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 tsp. Cinnamon

1/4 tsp cloves

1/4tsp allspice

¼ tsp nutmeg

Heat all the ingredients in a saucepan until you see bubbles form. Pull from stove and stir well. Let it cool then pour it in clean jars.

*Recipe for easy applesauce

8 apples – peeled, cored and chopped, 1 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

In a saucepan, combine apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon. Cover, and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until apples are soft. Allow to cool, then mash with a fork or potato masher and save it in glass jars.

Refrigerate this as this recipe does not include the canning or preserving portion. It was meant to be eaten after it was chilled. I have found that it will last a number of weeks in the fridge.  Maw Maw.

11 comments on “Heritage apple butter (washday)

  1. Ingrid says:

    Ah….yes…..the fresh smell of linens. You brought back fond memories of my mom. It appears I made a mistake and should’ve pointed the rig toward FL instead of AZ for some biscuits and apple butter 🙂

  2. rumpydog says:

    You remind me of my great-grandma’s old wringer washer. 🙂

  3. What a wonderful apple butter recipe! I can almost taste it. And I think I can smell the fresh laundry, too. I recently commented that I wish I had my old clothesline back. Sometimes I think I would like to go back to washing and ironing clothes…sometimes! 🙂 There were rhythms to that kind of work that I think would de-stress some of my hurried life! Lovely story!

    • To this day I still take my sheets and pillow cases outdoors. The secret is to hang ’em up just before dark and take ’em down just before high noon. The damp night air removes the wrinkles and the morning air imbeds the new days smells. I love when the night blooming Jasmin is in bloom, my sheets smell like ’em for days afterward. My grandma who was full fledged Nez Perce Indian used to say she could smell the sun. I think she truly did!

  4. tbnranch says:

    I suppose it sounds weird to say, but I think this country desperately needs to take a few steps back. Great recipe, and what a wonderful story to compliment. 🙂

    • I agree, the more I find myself becoming less dependent on the store, the more I wish I was a kid again. It’s bringing out the familier. I’m not sure If I’d trade my porcelain throne for an outhouse yet because I can still recall how dang cold that seat was.

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