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My first apple festival

Sweet memories in Kentucky hometowns

Nearly 50 years later, I can still taste the apple butter.

Some of my earliest memories are trips around Kentucky to visit cousins. My grandmother was from Lawrence County and when I was 3 or 4 years old, one of those trips with her took us about 30 miles to Paintsville in Johnson County and to my first Kentucky Apple Festival.

It’s one of several fall apple festivals you can read about beginning on page 38. Established to promote apple production in their home communities, these festivals are now homecomings of sorts.

I defy anyone to make a better apple butter than what I tasted on that first Saturday in October with my grandmother. It was simply the best apple butter in the world.

They make it with love in eastern Kentucky. I think about all the effort it takes to cook and stir the apples in the giant kettle. As the natural sugars combine with cinnamon, it’s not only a sweet treat, it’s a taste of home.

Over a period of months, Fairview Freewill Baptist Church volunteers core, peel and crush apples, with men gathering outdoors under a tent to stir and cook the apples in a copper kettle. “We jar about 300 cases of warm, sweet apple butter—8-ounce jars are $3, 16-ounce for $5 and  32-ounce for $9,” says pastor Joe Harman.

My grandmother is no longer with us, but the memories of our time together are as close as a jar of apple butter.

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