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Merrimac Church makes old fashioned apple butter

Published On: Oct 10 2013 07:54:49 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 10 2013 11:26:43 PM EDT

It's a fall tradition that's part of many churches.


This story is about a tradition that was once a big part of many churches. We're talking apple butter and Merrimac Pentecostal Holiness Church in Blacksburg.

For decades, these fine folks say they've been making some of the sweetest apple butter around. Still, the congregation is getting older and Thelma Shelor, one of its senior members, says making apple butter is all about labor.

"I wish we had more young people to come out and learn the trade and learn how to put the apples together," Shelor said. "It's not easy."

Backs were tired, because church members took turns stirring nearly sixty bushels of apples in four huge pots underneath four blue tents.

If they weren't stirring, they were resting.

Malcolm Woolwine stood in overalls, talking to a friend. When asked if he would talk on camera, he wasn't much of a talker, but he spoke into the microphone anyway. Then Malcolm, yellow gloves in his back pocket, told his secret recipe for making apple butter.

"I more or less guess at it and I put in what I think it ought to have. Everybody says it's good so I keep it up. No one's complaining. No, if they do I'll let them do it," Woolwine said. The 77-year-old rocked his head back and laughed then went back to his buddies.

Inside, the women were washing more apples. One of three ladies, standing in a production line of sorts, said it best, "It's pretty stressful honey, it's pretty stressful!"

Outside, the apples kept cooking, while old friends talked about life and faith. Another woman at the kettle reminded everyone, "Push the apples around, stir it around to keep it from burning that's what you got to do, keep it moving."

Bobby Moore carried firewood to the kettle, saying he's found new life at this church.

A man in a plaid shirt standing with his back to me reminded me of my father. How he stood and those plaid shirts my dad used to love.

I'm glad these folks invited me to see how they make apple butter.