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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Monett Lions Club recognized for apple butter project

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lions Club has been recognized for its apple butter project in the November issue of Lion, the Lions Club International magazine.

According to Steve Wise, the staff for Lion contacted the club and requested information for a feature article. Monett was among seven clubs whose food projects were featured.

The article was laid out against a full-page photo of cases of bottled apple butter, ready for transportation to public events, where it was sold.

Jim Orr, who has been involved in the Monett Lions making apple butter since the project started in 1985, told The Times the Lions discovered apple butter was in demand. Organizers of the Mt. Vernon Apple Butter Makin' Days were trying to find more groups to make the delicacy.

The Lions approached what is now called the Lawrence County Manor. Staff there had the expertise and access to apples.

"We borrowed a kettle from Oren Moss and another one from Tom Kurucz's mother-in-law," Orr said. "We made three kettles worth the first year, one we gave to the nursing home. We cooked it under the old livestock pavilion. Rich Heim and I cut the firewood and we stirred it by hand."

Next year, the Lions switched to propane heat for cooking. By the third year, the Lions were looking for a better way to cook. Kenny Bremer built a prototype, Cliff Daniels made cherry wood paddles and Danny Conner contributed stainless steel kettles built especially for the cooking.

For the first four years, the Lions made three kettles of apple butter. With the new drive mechanism to stir, the cooking increased to five kettles, using four made for the Lions and another from Eldred Holle.

Many Lions over the years have taken a lead role in fundraising projects. Orr said Bill Botzow has been especially valuable on the apple butter project, taking a general leadership role and lining up the crew to work in Mt. Vernon during Apple Butter Makin' Days.

Initially the Lions peeled all the apples themselves, then received assistance from the wives. Help from the Monett Senior Citizens Center was later enlisted for peeling and coring the apples. Around 2005 the Lions switched to buying frozen apples that could be taken straight out of a box and into the kettle.

Production has almost doubled over the years, increasing by a third this year. Last year the Lions produced just under 1,000 gallons. It is sold in pint and quart jars and almost always sells out, Orr said. Three years ago the product line diversified by adding a line of sugar free apple butter, which also sells well.

A limited quantity of this year's apple butter supply is still available. Jars can be purchased at Community National Bank, UMB Bank and First State Bank.

"It's one of our big fundraiser for the year," Orr said. "It's a lot of work for three weekends."

The Lions also barbecue chicken on July 4.

Wise explained the finished apple butter has to meet a thickness test to determine readiness. If the apple butter can be spread on a plate, turned upside down and stays in place, then it's ready.

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