Becker Family Keeps Applebutter Tradition

By Trisha Becker

The applebutter tradition has been in the Cowan family for many generations, the special day always falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in Missouri.

Before the actual day, Emmett and Darlene Cowan gather eight bushels of apples (about 40 lbs. each). This year Jonathan apples were used, 52 lbs. of sugar and about 65 cinnamon sticks cut into thirds.

The apples are cooked until they’re soft and then put through a strainer. The strainer separates the apple from the rest that is discarded. This will make an applesauce consistence, which is frozen until a few nights before the actual day.

The 125-year-old, 30 lb. copper kettle sits in the garage waiting on a burner, and it all gets started at 7 a.m. The men show up with donuts and begin stirring. They stir in 10 minute increments, except for Uncle Cal, who can never remember when he stirred last, so they seem to add him into the mix every third time. The sugar is added throughout the stirring, especially if it starts bubbling, then you add it right away to cool it down, the cinnamon sticks are added in the last hour.

The women arrive later with crockpots, casseroles, desserts and more food for lunch. We gather in the kitchen, preparing for the applebutter, laughing, talking, eating, taking care of kids and chasing puppies.

At 3 p.m., eight hours from the start, the applebutter is ready, and an assembly line is formed. It is scooped out of the kettle, and poured into quart or pint jars. The lids are ready, sitting in hot water, with magnets the lids are lifted and placed on top of the jar, then fastened with a ring. When it all cools down, the lid will pop sealing the applebutter.

The biscuits come out of the oven and the applebutter is placed on top. The warm sweet apple cinnamon flavor spreads through your mouth, and you realize that it doesn’t get any better.
I think it was all summed up when Emmett and Darlene’s seven-year-old great grandson, Nickolos, was asked in school what his favorite holiday was, and he replied “APPLEBUTTER DAY!”