Apple butter makers in Harman, WV. Photo by Allen Siegler

HARMAN — The Monday afternoon smoke along U.S. Route 33 near Harman wasn’t from an uncontrolled fire. Instead, a small group was taking advantage of the cloudless November day for one of their favorite activities: making apple butter.

All four stood around a 32-gallon kettle as the ingredients, including five bushels of apples, boiled over a wood-burning stove. Each took turns stirring the melting pot as the mixture bubbled along the kettle’s tinfoil lining.

“We got out here at 9 a.m.,” Don Smith said. “We’ll probably be here until sundown.”

Mountain State Spotlight reporters are traveling around the state, asking West Virginians what’s on their mind this election season. To read other stories from this series, click here. 

Two of the others, Willy Elliott and Joe Cooper, were Smith’s cousins. The fourth, Rex Vance, was a lifelong friend. The next day, all planned to walk to their local polling place, Harman High School, and cast their ballots. 

While all four said they have their own beliefs, they were all concerned about West Virginia’s economy. They worried about inflation and cringed each time they saw gas prices rise.

“We don’t live where we can just run right next door to buy groceries,” Vance said. 

“Everything’s going up,” said Smith.

The group also agreed on many national issues. They said unconditional money from federal stimulus programs like the American Rescue Plan was irresponsible, immigration from Mexico needed to be controlled, and abortion should be illegal on a national level. 

“We’re Mountaineers, but we’re hillbillies,” Vance said. “We believe that [if] you have a child, you don’t even think about the idea of aborting a child.”

All those concerns, however, were secondary to the task at hand. Today, the focus was on jarring enough apple butter to last through the winter.

“I still got some from 2017,” Vance said. “Still good.”

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Allen Siegler is the public health reporter for Mountain State Spotlight. He can be reached at (681) 317-7571.