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Shawquon Ruritan new and old-fashioned way of making apple butter

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Photo collages are courtesy of Harry Newman.

The Shawquon Ruritan has served Stephens City and the south county area since 1956. Our members are dedicated to assessing the needs of the local community and providing volunteer services to make our neighborhoods a better place to live, work and prosper.

The club continues a history of providing college scholarships to local high school seniors. The club also supports fire and rescue and sheriff departments, cub scouts and boy’s scouts, youth organizations, Area 13 Special Olympics, Newtown Heritage Festival, victims of severe illness, homeless shelters and food pantries.

Traditional apple butter making

Fall always means apple butter, at least for many churches and civic organizations in the Shenandoah Valley. As for the Shawquon Ruritans in Stephen City, they are no exception. Here at the Shiley residence, beneath a bright blue sky and end of summer sunshine, the Ruritan Club gathers each year to prepare the season’s jars of homemade apple butter.

Marshall and Pam Shiley have been members of the Shawquon Ruritan Club in Stephens City since 2006. Marshall is a diesel mechanic who founded his own company, MS Heating and Air Conditioning, in 1986. He first learned traditional apple butter making at the family farm on Cedar Creek Grade in Frederick County. He and Pam had previously coordinated apple butter making at Refuge United Methodist Church in Stephens City and White Post United Methodist Church in Clarke County.

The selling of apple butter has become a major fundraiser for the club and Marshall has been making Shawquon Apple Butter for the last 12 years. Marshall uses golden delicious apples from the Loretta McDonald farm. Loretta is an active member of the Ruritan and donates the apples in support of the club’s annual fundraising effort. The apples are usually picked in late August just in time to be used for the annual Shawquon apple butter production during the first week of September.

Marshall informed me that Loretta delivers 42 bushels of golden delicious apples which are used to cook three 50 gallon kettles of apple butter. This year Loretta will have the apples picked and placed in three 14-bushel wooden bins about a day before apple butter production begins. The bins are loaded onto a trailer and driven to the Shiley residence.

Each 50-gallon kettle should produce 45 gallons of apple butter. Each kettle requires 14 bushels of apples which, after peeling and core removal, are trimmed down to nine bushels of snits. The cooking of 27 bushels of snits will take approximately 12 hours per kettle and eventually produce approximately 1,000 pint jars of Shawquon Apple Butter.

The antique apple peeler used in current production is a 1930 F. B. Pease, manufactured in Rochester, New York. Apples are manually placed in cups on the machine and the core is mechanically removed along with all seeds, skin and stems, leaving only the apple pulp which will become apple butter. Over the course of two days, 4,200 apples will be peeled, cored and segmented by the apple peeling machine.

Before making apple butter, Marshall adds lemon juice to the bucket of water that the apples fall into after peeling to keep the apples from turning dark. The lighter the apples the easier for the Ruritan chefs to quarter and slice. Ruritan members work to remove any residual core, seeds or skin from the apple pulp over a two day period. The working of the apples is referred to as a “schnitzen party” (slicing and dicing up the 27 snits of apples). The apple pulp is stored in a cool place until ready to cook.

Marshall always sets the kettle up the night before and makes sure it is on level ground. He butters the sides and bottom of the kettle and stirrers and throws the remaining butter (two sticks) in the kettle. Marshall does this the night before because it saves precious time and it is dark and visibility is poor in early morning. He covers the kettle with a tarp to prevent insects and any dust or debris from getting inside.

The apple butter production begins between 4 am and 5 am. The kettle is made of copper with a rounded bottom and no seams. It sits on legs about one foot above the ground, leaving enough room to fit a gas burner. Marshall prefers using gas versus firewood because if it rains, the kettle can be moved indoors. Marshall modified a 50-gallon copper kettle top to include a 1950’s era McCulloch two-man chainsaw motor-driven post hole digger transmission, which now has an electric motor installed instead of the old chainsaw. The electric motor drives, via belts, the transmission that turns kettle-conforming wooden paddles, thereby stirring the apple butter. The electric stirrer eliminates the need for volunteers to stir and stir and stir for hours, providing increased consistency.

Marshall created two home-made, specially-designed wooden stirrers with an oblong hole on the bottom to help keep the sugar and apple pulp circulating within the kettle. This blade-like utensil must be rounded to fit the bottom of the kettle and prevent burning. The foot of the stirrer must be as long as the kettle is deep to continuously scrape off pulp from the kettle’s sides.

He adds one gallon of fresh apple cider while Ruritan members drop apples from wooden crates until the 50-gallon kettle is full. From the beginning the gas fire keeps the heat even and constant. Ruritan members fill the kettle with raw apples and finish no later than 3 hours after startup. Apples cannot be added to the kettle afterwards, allowing all apples to be cooked equally.

The pulp is at boiling temperature until it reaches the right level of thickness. Marshall cooks for approximately three or more hours before adding sugar. This process will “cook down” the apples to remove much of the water contained in the apples.

After six and one half hours, when a little volcano bubble emerges, Marshall puts a tablespoon of cooked apples on a cold saucer, tilts it and visually determines if the water runs fast from the apples. If it does, the apple butter is not thick enough. It has to stop “weeping,” meaning that water should not separate from the pulp. This is called a water test. Marshall usually runs five to six tests per kettle.

When the water is determined to have been cooked out, Ruritan members under Marshall’s supervision gradually add sugar to each 50 gallon kettle. A medium size sauce pan and handle is used to gently shake the sugar into the kettle, so no clumping occurs. After around three hours of continuously adding sugar, the various tasters agree the apple pulp is sweetened to the right taste.

After the last of the sugar is added, Marshall cooks for at least two or more hours, then checks for consistency. As the kettle content gurgles and spurts, the pulp slowly turns a russet brown color. The sugar caramelizes, darkening the apple butter’s color.

Marshall says apple butter making is a taste-as-you-go process. When he and the tasters are satisfied with color and sweetness, he begins to add spice (only cinnamon) but just after he cuts off the gas heat. Marshall uses artificial oil of cinnamon because the real stuff is very expensive ($65 an ounce). Marshall procures the oil of cinnamon in 4 oz. bottles. The cinnamon is added to taste. “If it does not burn your tongue today, it won’t be right tomorrow,” Marshall said. Ruritan members now begin to continuously stir, using a special home-made six foot long paddle-like stirrer to ensure the cinnamon is absorbed throughout the apple butter. Marshall made the handle from hickory, however he crafted the paddle from walnut because it is a close-grained hardwood that does not bleed wood flavor into the apple butter. To keep the apple pulp constantly rotating, Marshall recommends this cadence for the stirrer on duty: “Twice around left and back through the middle, twice around right and back through the middle.” Marshall and his discriminating tasters sample again and again, adding more cinnamon as necessary, stirring continuously. The cinnamon adding stage takes less than one half hour.

Marshall knows when it is done by judging the apple pulp thickness and russet color. It takes years of experience to know “doneness” and there is no computer algorithm or kitchen gadget employed to determine doneness. It is all about sweetness, color and consistency.


Now the jarring process begins
The jars, lids and rings have been previously sterilized in commercial dish washers and repacked in their original boxes at the McDonald farm and at the Shiley residence. The commercial machines can wash 72 jars at one time and it takes 15 washes to deliver 1,080 jars that will be required if each kettle produces 45 gallons of apple butter. While the kettles of apple butter are cooking, the custom labels are positioned on the jars.

Once pronounced done, the apple butter is poured into Marshal’s home-made four-gallon jar filler. The finished apple butter at this point is extremely hot – almost at the boiling point, so experience and extreme caution is a requirement for Ruritans handling the jar filling process. A production line of Ruritan members support Marshall. When Marshall manually fills the pint jar he slides it over to a member who puts the sterilized lid on and then another member applies the ring. One can hear the popping of the lids as the apple butter cools and a vacuum occurs, sealing the jars. The assembly line continues as the jars are then packed 12 to a box and carried to the storage area.

October is National Apple Month and there is no better way to savor the sweet goodness of tasty apple butter throughout the winter months than by keeping several pint jars in the kitchen cupboard. Consider buying a few pints as Thanksgiving or Christmas gifts for friends and family.

How to buy Shawquon Apple Butter
Shawquon Apple Butter can be purchased for $5 a pint bottle or $60 a 12-bottle case. The apple butter can be bought from the following local stores: The Seven-Eleven in Middletown, Stephens City Barbershop, Gore’s Fresh Meats, Split Ends Hair Salon and White Oak Trading Post.

About Shawquon Ruritan
Shawquon Ruritan meet at the Stephens City United Methodist Church at 7:00 PM every third Thursday of each month. Come join us and become a member. We are dedicated to improving communities and building a better America through Fellowship, Goodwill and Community Service.

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Royal Cinemas reopening: This week’s showtimes as of June 5th

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Are you looking for the full movie-going experience without having to wait in the long lines that often accompany that experience? Then look no further because Royal Cinemas movie theatre is the answer. Get the whole gang together and enjoy a movie! Here is a list of this week’s showtimes at Royal Cinemas as of Friday, June 5:

•   Thursday: 12:55, 3:50 & 6:15
•   Fri – Wed: 12:55, 3:50 & 6:15
Rated PG  |  Run Time: 1 hour 55 min

•   Thursday: 1:10, 3:45 & 6:45
•   Fri – Wed: 1:10, 3:45 & 6:45
Rated PG  |  Run Time: 1 hour 30 min

•   Thursday: 12:45, 3:35 & 6:30
•   Fri – Wed: 12:45, 3:35 & 6:30
Rated R  |  Run Time: 1 hour 45 min


Ticket prices are as follows:

  • Adult: $3
  • Child (under 12): $3
  • Military: $3
  • Student (college): $3
  • Senior: $3
  • Matinees, All Seating: $3

Other movies coming soon to Royal Cinemas:

  • “A Quiet Place Part II”
  • “Mulan”
  • “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway”
  • “Black Widow”
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Faith Based Web Series by Northwestern Prevention Collaborative

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As COVID-19 continues to impact daily life, the Northwestern Prevention Collaborative is finding creative ways to respond to needs and offer support to the community. One way the Collaborative has adapted is by moving the annual Faith Based Symposium online. The Faith Based Web Series will maintain the mission of the original symposium, with an emphasis on the unique challenges brought on by COVID-19. With a focus on the intersection of stress/anxiety, COVID-19, and substance misuse in the community, the Collaborative hopes to share tools for taking care of a faith community during the pandemic.

Faith communities are already reaching out and meeting the needs of their members and neighbors in new ways. When asked about the series, Collaborative member Shannon Urum said, “We want to be able to provide information and resources that can help enhance these efforts and possibly lead to new opportunities to connect with and help individuals in need.” Collaborating with community partners is one of the foundations of the Northwestern Prevention Collaborative’s strategy for reducing opioid misuse and overdoses. Now more than ever, they recognize the need for support and sharing among partners.” Urum stated, “There is power in numbers and there is a role for everyone in helping to create a healthier community.”

The webinar will take place on Thursday, June 4th from 10:00-11:30am. Community members interested in attending can use THIS LINK to register. In keeping with their belief that everyone has a role in addressing the opioid epidemic, the Collaborative is excited to bring together leaders within the faith community for a morning of learning and collaboration.


About Northwestern Prevention Collaborative

Northwestern Prevention Collaborative is a partnership among three substance abuse coalitions in the Lord Fairfax Planning District, representing the City of Winchester and the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah, and Warren. Focusing on the heroin/opioid epidemic, the collaborative has dual goals of preventing young people from abusing prescription drugs and reducing the number of heroin/prescription drug overdose deaths. Northwestern Prevention Collaborative is funded by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

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A successful Memorial Day commemoration ceremony held at Hidden Springs Senior Living Facility

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On May 25, 2020, The Colonel James Wood II Chapter, Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution combined with Hidden Springs Senior Living Facility to hold a commemoration ceremony in honor of Memorial Day. Due to the restrictions placed by the Coronavirus, several safeguards were instituted to protect participants, residents and staff. Face masks were worn except when giving presentations, and social distancing was in place. The residents were kept a minimum of 40 feet from the participants at all times.

Color Guard presenting the National and State Colors.

The ceremony began with the presentation of the colors. Reverend Jim Simmons led with an invocation, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. After the colors were posted, Dale Corey gave a presentation on the history of Memorial Day and its significance. He was followed by presentations by Marc Robinson, Paul Christensen and Charles Jameson. There was a moment of silence and then a three round musket salute fired in honor of the fallen military from all wars.

In the United States, the beginnings of Decoration Day as it was originally known, began with the Civil War. Throughout the war, graves were decorated at locations where battles had been fought. After the war, a group of women of Columbus, George sent a letter to the press in March 1866 asking their assistance in establishing an annual holiday to decorate the graves of soldiers throughout the south. The result was a gathering interest in such a memorial celebration.

In May 1868, General John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic made a proclamation to adopt the Memorial Day practice started three years earlier in the south. May 30th was declared as the day of commemoration with ceremonies in 183 cemeteries across 27 states. After World War I, the practice was changed to include honoring the veterans of all wars with the decoration of graves. The name was gradually changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day.

Musket Squad preparing to fire a salute.

In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This decreed that four holidays would be on a specified Monday to create a three day weekend. This included moving Memorial Day from May 30th to the last Monday in May. The law took affect at the Federal level in 1971 and was gradually adopted by all 50 states.

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Samuels Public Library Adult Programming events for June

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All of our programs will take place over Zoom and will require you to register on our website at samuelslibrary.net in the events tab. Zoom is accessible as a website or as an app you can download to your phone. If you need help setting up Zoom on your device, please call the Adult Reference desk at 540-635-3153 ext. 105.


Sculpting Words: A Poetry Writing Workshop

Join poet and educator Connie Stadler for a special six-week poetry workshop over Zoom. Space is limited. Registration Required. Tuesday, June 2nd at 6:00 P.M.

Books & Beyond Discussion Group

Join us for our book club discussion time! This program will take place over Zoom. You will need to provide an email as well as a device that has Zoom on it. Wednesday, June 3rd at 10:00 A.M.

How to Use Freading and RB Digital

This year’s Adult Summer Reading theme is Dig Deeper into Your Library! Join us as we dig deeper into our databases! Erly will be teaching us how to use Freading and RB Digital, two databases that provide ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines that are all accessible with your library card! This program will take place over Zoom. Wednesday, June 3rd @ 6:30 P.M.

Photographing Spring Wildflowers

Join Sharon Fisher on Zoom for her four-week class as she goes over how to take stunning pictures of wildflowers with any smartphone or camera! She will be advising on settings and how to find flowers in your yard. There will also be follow up discussion groups where you can share your work and get more advice. Saturday, June 6th @ 10:00 A.M.

Sculpting Words: A Poetry Writing Workshop

Join poet and educator Connie Stadler for a special six-week poetry workshop over Zoom. Space is limited. Registration Required. Tuesday, June 9th at 6:00 P.M.

How to Use Universal Class

This year’s Adult Summer Reading theme is Dig Deeper into Your Library! Join us as we dig deeper into our databases! Cameron Dillon will be teaching us how to use Universal Class, a database that offers hundreds of free classes on a variety of subjects! This program will take place over Zoom. Wednesday, June 10th at 6:30 P.M.

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A successful Memorial Day commemoration ceremony held at Veterans Memorial Park, Middletown

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Ms. Melissa Legge-Mauck performing the National Anthem in front of the Colonel James Wood II Color Guard.

On May 25, 2020, Middletown conducted a commemoration ceremony for Memorial Day at the Veterans Memorial Park. The ceremony was held to honor the members of the US Military who lost their lives in service to their country. Participating in the event with the town were the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2123 and the Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution. Because of the restrictions due to the Coronavirus, the event was live streamed via the town’s facebook.

Ray Steele as emcee welcomed all to the event. The Colonel James Wood II Color Guard presented the colors and remained in place for an invocation by Danny Hesse, a rendition of the National Anthem by Melissa Legge-Mauck and the Pledge of Allegiance. This was followed by a presentation by Sheriff Lenny Millholland.

Memorial Day has its beginnings founded in the Civil War as remembrance of those gave their lives in that conflict. Starting out as Decoration Day, it was officially proclaimed in 1868 by General John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic to be a date “with the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country in the late rebellion.” After World War I, it came to reprdecoratesent a day to remember the deceased veterans of all wars. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which decreed the last Monday in May to be the National holiday Memorial Day.

Mayor Charles Harbaugh and Sheriff Millholland presented a wreath to honor all those who served and died the all of our wars. This was followed with a moment of silence. Taps was played by Andrew Paul which was followed by a rifle salute fired by VFW Post 2123 Honor Guard with support from the Colonel James Wood II Musket Squad. The ceremony concluded with a benediction from Danny Hesse to close out the event.

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A successful Memorial Day commemoration ceremony held at the Winchester National Cemetery

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Participating members of the Sons of the American Revolution from left to right: Chip Daniel, Clay Robinson, Dale Corey, Nathan Poe, Brett Osborn, Eric Robinson, Sean Carrigan, Marc Robinson and Paul Christensen.

On May 22, 2020, the National Cemetery in Winchester held a commemoration ceremony for Memorial Day. Participants included the Colonel James Wood II Chapter Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution, the American Red Cross, VFW Chapter 2123, the Northern Shenandoah Valley Community Veterans Engageme Board, and Heroes on the River. The ceremony was held to honor Americans who died in the military service of their country. There were brief remarks, a moment of silence, the playing of taps and presentation of wreaths.

The history of Memorial Day is complex. The decoration of graves began during the Civil War. The first fallen soldier so honored was John Quincy Marr, the first soldier killed in action in the Civil War. He died June 1, 1861, at the Battle of Fairfax Courthouse. He was laid to rest in Warrenton, Virginia, on June 3.

Throughout the war and during the aftermath, graves were decorated at various locations. On May 5, 1868, General John Logan issued a proclamation calling for Decoration Day to be observed nationwide every year. He was the commander-in-chief of the Grand Old Army, an organization founded of and for Union Civil War Veterans in Decatur, Illinois. May 30 was the date selected for the decoration of Civil War graves. In 1868, ceremonies were held in 183 cemeteries in 27 states. In 1871, Michigan declared Decoration Day to be a state holiday, and by 1890, all the northern states had decreed Decoration Day a state holiday. After the end of World War I, the day had been expanded from recognition of Civil War Veterans only to honor all of our military who died in the service of the country.

Wreaths presented at the commemoration ceremony. Pictured from left to right are Ashley Moslak, Marc Robinson, Adam Packham and Ralph Hensley.

The term Memorial Day was first used in 1882 and gradually became more common. In 1967, Congress passed a law declaring the official name to be Memorial Day. The following year, they passed the Uniform Holiday Act which moved four holidays to Monday, creating a three day weekend for those celebrations. Memorial Day was to be the last Monday in May, and the law took effect in 1971.

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