Apple butter causes stir at Blennerhassett Island

PARKERSBURG – As many people came to Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park over the Labor Day Weekend, a number got a special treat as local 4-H’ers made apple butter over an open fire as part of the annual Apple Butter Weekend.

The Stillwell 4-H Club once again came to the island to show the public the honored tradition of making apple butter.

“We are on Blennerhassett Island stirring apple butter for the weekend,” said Kallie Reed, a club member. “(Saturday) was really rainy, but we still had quite a few people come over and buy something.

“(Sunday) we are doing really well.”

Reed estimated over 100 people visited the club’s apple butter station on Blennerhassett Island over the weekend.

The apple butter making started early in the morning with getting the ingredients into the kettle. It was cooked throughout the day, with apple sauce, cinnamon and sugar added regularly. Various members of the club – dressed in colonial attire – and the public took turns stirring it. The club was also working on a sugar-free version so it could be available for more people.

“It is a tradition that many people don’t do anymore,” Reed said. “We like to stick with the traditional things.

“It is good to do it on the island because this is historical.”

The Stillwell 4-H Club sold pints of apple butter for $6 and quarts for $8. The money the club makes goes towards activities the club is involved in.

“It helps pay for activities we want to do as a group,” Reed said. “Many of us look forward to doing this.

“We are able to stay on the island and it is a lot of fun. We like being together.”

There were seven club members manning the station Saturday and Sunday, with various parents present. The club is not specific to one discipline as members have a variety of projects across a number of fields. All of the members of the 4-H club participate in the making and selling of the apple butter.

The 4-H club was only on the island Saturday and Sunday. Although Blennerhassett Island is open today for visitors, the Apple Butter Weekend concluded Sunday.

For the people who came, Reed hopes they gained an appreciation for the work people used to put into making food and other things they needed in their daily lives.

“We hope they get a sense of what the past used to be like,” she said. “We wanted to show how they can get away from technology. They could come here and be back in the old days.”

The Stillwell 4-H Club will be selling its apple butter again during Mansion by Candlelight on Blennerhassett Island in October, as well as the Harvest Moon Festival at City Park in September.

For those who came to watch, many were interested in the process while others wanted to see something they don’t get a chance to see that often. Katie Keating, of Torch, said her grandchildren, Matt and Ella Hansell, were visiting them for the holiday weekend from Cincinnati.

“We are just doing a little bit of exploring,” she said. “We saw there was an Apple Butter Weekend going on and that was one of the things the kids wanted to see today”

Children need to learn how things were made back in the days before there was modern technology, Keating said.

“We always like to expose them to how things were done before there were cars and machines when people didn’t have electricity to do things, like we do today,” she said.

Matt, who had a chance to stir the apple butter, said the actual pot of apple butter was not as deep as one might think looking at the pot involved.

“It was not as thick as stirring peanut butter,” he said, adding he was enjoying himself.

Gina and Sid Huffman, of Upshur County, came to Blennerhassett Island on Sunday for something new to try out.

“It is good apple butter,” Gina Huffman said.

Events like this help educate people about certain aspects of life that people use to do, Sid Huffman said.

“It carries on tradition, things our ancestors and forefathers did all their lives,” he said. “A lot of people in the younger generation don’t realize what the older generations did in making their own food.”

Beverly resident Derrick Huck brought his family over to Blennerhassett Island on Sunday to enjoy the weather and get some apple butter.

“We wanted to enjoy Labor Day Weekend with the family,” he said. “(The apple butter demonstration was) interesting and delicious.”

Although Labor Day Weekend, for many people, represents the last weekend of the summer season, Blennerhassett Island will have events going into the fall with the park and museum open today for tours and activities. Some of the upcoming programs will include “Brunch with Margaret” on Sept. 12 and Oct. 3 and the annual Blennerhassett Mansion by Candlelight on Oct. 11-12.

The park will be open today for Labor Day, before shifting to its fall schedule which consists of being open Thursday through Sunday, with the last boat leaving the island at 4:30 p.m., said Assistant Park Superintendent Miles Evenson. The fall season will run until Oct. 27.

During the coming week, there will be cross country races held on the island involving local middle schools on Tuesday and a collegiate and open race on Friday.

Evenson said the park had a good summer season. He credits the park’s many volunteers with helping to conduct tours at the mansion and the Putnam-Houser House and do other needed jobs, helping the park’s overall success.

“We did pretty well,” he said. “It looked like to me that our numbers were up from last year.

“We had a really good season.”

Evenson hopes their visitors have learned something about the Blennerhassetts and an idea of how things were in the early 1800s.

“We hope they had a good time while they were over here and enjoyed the island,” he said. “It is a beautiful place to be.”