by Karenne Wood
- In late September, evenings bring Indian women to the tribal center
kitchen, where they make apple butter. They gather their aprons,
headscarves tied on, descending the hillsides with dusk. The first night,
they pare, core, and quarter cooking apples, imperfect yellow spheres
stacked in bushel baskets
- - no crimson, waxed Delicious, no green
Granny Smiths, no Empires. All evening, women chop as apple chunks
turn the color of earth in the air, as leaves begin to yellow in the dark
ness. They need one quart of apples for every half pint; baskets empty as
fingers grow moist, then wrinkle, among laughter and the scrapes
of small knives that pare and pare again.
The second night, boiling begins. Scents of hot cider, cinnamon, ginger
and cloves rise to spread around the women like thick, hooded robes.
Quarts of cider or vinegar are stirred and stirred again, the hours it takes
to reduce each pot by half, to add the chopped apples, simmer an hour,
add sugar, spices, boil again, until dark
- gold mixtures turn the mahogany
velvet of trees and the scent anoints the hair. Now, through the music of
spoons, jars and pots, through laughter, what remains is reduced to the
essence of apple: roots and limbs laden with gold circles. We are blessed
by the hands of these women who ladle into jars an enchantment made
by heart, who condense, seal, process and sell apple butter at St. Paul's
church bazaar, three dollars for a pint.
From Markings on Earth, University of Arizona Press.
© 2001 Karenne Wood
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