Comparing Apples to Apple Butter

“Once upon a time, Apples were a premier crop of Rappahannock County. Even before the creation of the county, apples were grown as a staple for families and as a cash crop.”


That is how the presentation Apples and Rappahannock County, researched and prepared by the Rappahannock Historical Society, begins its study of the history of  apples in our county.

Serendipity Farmhouse sits proudly at the center of the county’s historic apple growing and processing landmarks. When you look at the pictures in the presentation, many times you will see the very same views we have from our office window. The pictures allow us to look back in time and see that SFH was at the heart of what was a thriving county industry.

Although the county’s economy has changed and the days of the large prosperous orchards are long past, some excellent orchards remain to remind us of what used to be. One thing has not changed, though – an apple from Rappahannock County is apple worth eating. Yes, even those five old, poorly maintained Stayman apple trees here at SFH, when conditions are right, produce apples of unforgettable flavor and enjoyment.

So, in a quest to capture history and good flavor, members of the soon to be famous SFH Test Kitchen (SFH-TK) set out to find some of the fabled, quality apples of Rappahannock. Our research this year pointed us to Roy’s Orchard & Fruit Market , which is literally within walking distance of SFH.

It was a damp rainy day, with Autumn colors subdued by overcast skies. Up the long drive through the orchards we went and eventually found not just a single building selling apples. No Roy’s Orchard is a complex of several buildings with an array of products for sale, ranging from fresh apples and apple products to a large selection of local fruit and honey products.

Knowing that the objective of the SFH-TK was to make a uniquely Rappahannock apple butter, we looked through the apple bins, selecting the very best of each variety. When the selection was completed, we found ourselves holding a half bushel bag containing five different varieties of apples.

Upon returning to SFH, the SFH-TK staff conducted taste testing and evaluation of the primary ingredient for our new preserving effort. Each variety had it’s own signature flavor – sweet, tart, mild, lingering, aromatic, etc. It was an experience akin to partaking in a tasting at one our county’s fine wineries. There were not enough words to describe the flavors.

1115181557c (2)Our job was to combine these many flavors in a single product – G&G’s Apple Butter.* We had to consider each of the individual flavors to determine the proportions and balance of the several varieties. Some of this process was science and some of it was guesswork. In the end, however, the result was pure “serendipity”. This year’s batch of G&G’s Apple Butter was like no other.

The days since the preserving have been highlighted by apple butter on toast, apple butter on English muffins, and if Mr. Monte gets his way, it will be apple butter on ice cream. We can truly say the staff of the SFH-TK is satisfied with their work.

This year, we used an old recipe from our archives. It is no longer available at the website, but, through the marvels of the Wayback Machine, you can find the recipe here: – Apple Butter Recipe. Please note the important  SFH-TK modifications to the original recipe


4 pounds apples ///SFH-TK uses 5 pounds///
4 cups sugar (based on sweetness of apples) ///SFH-TK uses 3 cups sugar///
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves

Directions: Chop apples into small chunks. Add apples and 2 cups of water to pan. Simmer until apples are soft. Press the mixture through a sieve or food mill. ///SFH-TK uses a blender because it’s faster and requires less cleanup///

1105181550a (2)Combine apple mixture and spices in a large sauce pot. Cook slowly until thick enough to round up on a spoon. Ladle into prepared jars and process for 10 minutes in hot water bath. ///SFH-TK processes for 15 minutes///

Yield: 5 pints ///SFH-TK uses 10 half pint jars///

* Note: G&G stands for Granny & Grandad’s

SFH Journal: 2018-11-15 – First Snow & First Fire

Highlight: There’s no reason to make a big deal about our weather today. It wasn’t a blizzard. Tree limbs weren’t broken under the weight of accumulated ice. We weren’t caught off guard or unprepared. – It was just an unusually early snow with a wintry mix. And, although it may have been inconvenient, it didn’t stop dear sweet wife and I from making plans for purchasing a new washer and dryer. It didn’t keep the mail lady from delivering unwanted bills. The only reason why it stands out as a highlight is – it was the first snowfall of the year at Serendipity Farmhouse. And that, dear and gentle reader, is an important event in our quiet way of life.

The precipitation began before dawn. At first, it didn’t look like it would amount to much. But, as the day progressed, the snowfall increased and we ended up with between two and three inches. It was a sloppy, slushy, yucky kind of snow, but nice to see, nevertheless.

1115180731a (2)
First snow at 7:31AM

1115181158 (2)Seldom do the days of the first snow and the lighting of the first fire in the wood stove coincide, but this year they did. That makes today even more special. A few pieces of wood, a pile of tinder, a starter, and one match – Voila! Instant warmth. Now the noisy propane furnace can take a rest. The wood stove will be our primary source of heat for the remainder of the Winter. (Of course, this is still Autumn, and it will be for more than a month – but tell the weather that.)

The only new detail added to the beginning of this season at SFH is now we have to protect El Camino Del1115181156 (2) Monte (ECDM) from the elements. Fortunately we received the RV cover in time to protect our home-away-from-home. Mr. Monte, however, is not happy with this new feature. The reason is he loves to look out the window above the kitchen sink. Now that ECDM is there, all he gets to see is a big unsightly RV bag – he is not pleased.

Weather:  You name it, we got it. Rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow all came our way today. (For details of Sperryville, VA weather in November 2018 – click here.)

2018-11-15: High/Low – 34º/31º

Plantings: Reporting suspended until the first planting of 2019.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.

SFH Journal: 2018-11-08 through 14

Highlight 1: The change of seasons could be no more evident than what we have seen this last week. Autumn colors reached peak; passed peak; and now the leaves are gone. Daily highs have dropped to the mid-forties. The National Weather Service now promises us snow and a wintry mix tonight. The splendor of Autumn was far too short.

Highlight 2: Our featured picture, however, summons hope for the coming season. Our Christmas cactus has been with us since Idaho. Its brave parent plant was a gift to my Mother many years ago in Ohio. It made the trip to Virginia when she passed away. And then, in true pioneering spirit, it crossed plains and deserts to live with us in Idaho. The blossoms of today bring memories of my Mom and remind us that Christmas will soon be here.

Highlight 3: Yesterday, in what will surely become a yearly ritual, old Fuzz Face crawled up the ladder of our RV El Camino Del Monte. With wobbly legs and great fear of impending disaster, he unfurled the new RV cover. One tiny, cleverly hidden tag, was the only way to identify the front end of this monstrous and unwieldy mass of fabric. While foolhardily traversing the roof of the RV in a totally confused and befuddled state, the wind began to build and threatened to turn the RV cover into a parasail and to drag Fuzz Face to some far-flung corner of the county. As one might expect, Mr. Monte watched from the kitchen window with “glee” and “hopeful expectations” written on his face. Unfortunately, for Mr. Monte, old Fuzz Face was uncharacteristically successful and completed the job unharmed.

1114181519a_HDR (2)
El Camino Del Monte bundled up for Winter

Weather:  And finally it arrives. These are the words of the National Weather Service for tonight (14-15 November): “Snow, freezing rain, and sleet, mainly after 4am. Low around 28. Northeast wind around 6 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New ice accumulation of less than a 0.1 of an inch possible. New snow and sleet accumulation of less than a half inch possible.” (For details of Sperryville, VA weather in November 2018 – click here.)

2018-11-08: High/Low -55º/39º

2018-11-09: High/Low – 45º/41º

2018-11-10: High/Low – 45º/28º

2018-11-11: High/Low – 46º/25º

2018-11-12: High/Low – 46º/28º

2018-11-13: High/Low – 45º/37º

2018-11-14: High/Low – 41º/32º

Plantings: Reporting suspended until the first planting of 2019.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.

A Way to Prepare

FullFor those readers who live near Front Royal, VA, there is an event that you should consider attending either this weekend or next. St. John’s Drama is presenting the play A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Advent is but a few weeks away and A Christmas Carol is a perfect way to help you prepare for that time of prayerful reflection and preparation.

With the exception of Mr. Monte, all of us at Serendipity Farmhouse will be in attendance next weekend.

Full disclosure, however, dictates that we must advise that our sweet, charming, and talented Granddaughter #1 has a part in the play. We can also point out, with great pride, that dear Granddaughter also created the artwork that you see in the play announcement.

All information concerning venue, times, and ticket prices are in the announcement. We hope to see you there!



SFH Journal: 2018-11-04 through 07

Highlight 1: Recently, beautiful spouse and I had a painfully disappointing experience. We completely “destroyed” a wonderful piece of beef and some expensive fine, red wine by using a miserable excuse of a recipe that claimed that it would produce a delicious  “boeuf bourguignon”. We had planned to prepare this supposed delight while on our last RV trip. But, due to unforeseen circumstances did not prepare it until a week ago.  (See “Serendipity, we have a problem!”)

1022181836 (2)
Certified disaster on a plate

I won’t bother you with extraneous detail. Let me merely say that three absolutely essential ingredients were absent from the recipe: butter, bacon, and garlic. Butter starts my day, bacon lifts my spirits, and garlic makes life worth living! That wretched recipe has left me traumatized. (Julia Child would have wept.)

Motivated by pure indignation and outrage, I vowed that, 1104181410 (2)henceforward, butter, bacon, and most importantly garlic would always be available at SFH to add to recipes of this type. To that end, industrious and forward thinking wife planted nearly 20 cloves of garlic in our herb garden.

Highlight 2: I’m tired! I’m very tired. Over the last several days and two exceedingly long nights, I felt compelled to answer the call of civic duty and responsibility. I’ve gone to meetings concerning local issues, and with my dear sweet wife, I went to the polls at o-dark-thirty to vote in the national election. Last evening, we watched the news for hours as the election results rolled in. Here at SFH and at the homes of our children we hold fast to fulfilling our important civic obligation:

“Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay to taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country.” CCC 2240

1104181617a (2)Highlight 3: Oh, yes! Exceedingly thoughtful neighbors shared their bounty in oysters. Twenty-two tasty morsels from the Chesapeake Bay made their way to our grill and then to our table on  the 4th. Good neighbors are a blessing from God!

Weather: Alternating rain, sun, clouds. The yard is full of standing water again.

2018-11-04: High/Low – 57º/32º (Details – click here.)

2018-11-05: High/Low – 51º/46º (Details – click here.)

2018-11-06: High/Low – 62º/55º (Details – click here.)

2018-11-07: High/Low – 62º/41º (Details – click here.)

Plantings: Mark the date – November 4th – garlic, wonderful, delightful, versatile, essential garlic was planted.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.

SFH: 2018-11-02 & 03

Highlight: Don’t ever, not ever, no, never, never ever go to Front Royal when the foliage color change is nearing full peak. The roads were congested, there were accidents, and virtually no one knew where they were going. Many of the Lookie Lous were fixated on their GPS screens – “turn left at the retaining wall and then drive off the cliff” – yikes!

Sometimes, there is both humor and terror when you live where many people want to visit. Despite all that, we had a great day working in the yard and driving to the Autumn Terror Town of Front Royal.

On a more peaceful note, this year the cherry tree presented itself in delightful array both at the beginning and the end of the growing year. Thank you, dear cherry tree and thank you to your Creator.

Weather: Heavy rain last night and early this morning. The cloud cover broke and the sun shone through. It was a windy day covering and recovering the deck with leaves. Just a perfect day for working outside.

2018-11-02: High/Low – 68º/51º (Details – click here.)

2018-11-03: High/Low – 53º/44º (Details – click here.)

Plantings: Reporting suspended until the first planting of 2019.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.

SFH Journal: 2018-10-30 through 2018-11-01

Highlight: Autumn is all around us now. But, it seems there’s little time to The_Ant_and_the_Grasshopper_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_19994enjoy all the color and beauty. The old and browning hostas have to be cut down. The black walnuts have to be picked up off the lawn. The vegetable garden boxes have to be cleaned. The garden fence has to be repaired. Even our RV, El Camino Del Monte, has to be winterized. This is a time for storing away and making ready for the Winter’ long stay. Here at Serendipity Farmhouse we are reminded of Aesop’s fable about The Ants & the Grasshopper.

1101181057a-2.jpgDespite the work and Winter preparations, we can still afford to take a short break and look around us. Even the industrious ants would have to acknowledge that there is need for a time to rest. So, a picture here, a picture there, and a brief look at an azure sky; then, follow that with a prayer of thanksgiving.

Weather: Sunshine, partly cloudy, partly sunny, and the Autumn color change is in full swing.

2018-10-30: High/Low – 64º/37º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-31: High/Low – 73º/37º (Details – click here.)

2018-11-01: High/Low – 73º/51º (Details – click here.)

Plantings: Reporting suspended until the first planting of 2019.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.