Forestry Club hosts Apple Butter Festival, creates tasty “thank yous”

Wood smoke, the aroma of apple pie, a crisp autumn day, and brilliant blue sky. Such was the atmosphere at Picnic Point on Saturday, Oct. 15, the afternoon of the UW Madison Forestry Club’s second annual Apple Butter Fest.

The event was put on by UW Forestry Club officers Megs Seeley (president), Elly Voigt (reporter), Kyle Schannsburg (treasurer), John Joutras (secretary), Kristina Kusel (vice president), and other student foresters under the careful culinary tutelage of Virginia native Charles Goering. Originally an Appalachian courting tradition, the ritual of making apple butter was adopted by Madison student foresters as a community celebration open to all to celebrate the beautiful bounty of fall and the spirit of togetherness.

Forestry Club students stir apple sauce into apple butter, while others stoke the fire. Photo by Elly Voigt.

Producing apple butter is a labor-intensive process; enveloped in bluegrass music and good conversation, six bushels of apples from Cross Plains Appleberry Farm were painstakingly peeled, cored, and run through food processors to make four 5-gallon buckets of applesauce prior to the Saturday of cooking. Hauled out to Picnic Point’s furthermost fire ring hog-roast style on a two-by-four, Goering’s 50 gallon copper kettle, an incredible relic of southern craftsmanship, served as the vessel in which the applesauce was transformed, after nearly four hours of continuous stirring, into coveted spiced apple butter fit for toast, biscuits, or simply enjoying with a spoon.

“My favorite thing about Apple Butter is probably seeing all the families walking around Picnic Point on a Saturday morning,” relates Joutras. “I think it’s a bit of a surprise for people to find a huge copper kettle full of boiling apples at the end of their hike, and everyone is always fascinated by the process. The kids get a chance to stir the pot for a while and the parents ask questions and learn all about it. I hope we can keep doing it in the future.”

Producing and distributing apple butter has become a way for the Forestry Club of thanking faculty and staff for their continued encouragement and support of the forestry program and students’ endeavors both present and future in the realm of responsible natural resource management.

“This event is a great way to connect with our community and welcome autumn,” said Voigt, the club’s reporter, with a smile.

Picnic Point, a well-known public place and high traffic area for community members on a crisp fall afternoon, encourages community involvement and camaraderie.

“It becomes a critical avenue of conversation for telling folks about who foresters are, how they serve the public, and why,” Kusel describes.

The Madison student foresters would like to extend a warm thank-you to the Lakeshore Preserve for their gracious hospitality, Sandra Wilde at Appleberry farm for her donation of a bushel to the cause, Charles Goering for his guidance and expertise, and all participants from both the community and students who helped to make this event an unforgettable experience.