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Slow, slow cookin’

SOUTH POINT — It was an early morning Saturday for the men who are members of the South Point Order of Eastern Star. By 6 a.m., they were out at a farm off Sand Road to start a day’s worth of cooking. It was all part of the annual Sorghum and Bluegrass Festival.

However, this year the festival had to do without its resident sorghum maker. But the men who were busy with the apple butter more than made up for that with their energy and enthusiasm.

Into a 75-gallon specially made copper kettle, now turned black from years over open fires, they put in 17 bushels of Ginger Gold apples, already peeled and cored. Splintered wood cracked and smoked as the Ginger Golds slowly turned to a fragrant puree.

It takes eight hours of slow, slow cooking to come up with the right consistency for the delectable spread. And to get that the apples must be stirred and stirred.

The men took turns tossing the apples around in the pot with a five-foot rod that is awkward and unwieldy to someone not used to it. This slow cooking reduces the water from the chopped apples until they become velvety smooth.

“You can’t quit stirring. If you do it will scorch,” Bill Sparling of the Masonic organization, said.

The men have been making the butter as a fund-raiser for the past two decades and have learned that the secret in the recipe is in the apple and not much else.

“We don’t put anything in it,” Sparling said. “When it cooled down, then we’ll put in a little cinnamon and some sugar.”

Soon Proctorville’s finest, the succulent Rome Beauty apple, will replace the Ginger Gold as the main ingredient. But not much else will change as a long-standing tradition continues this autumn.