Watermelons in Apple Butter

| 10/24/2016 12:13:00 PM

Connie MooreIMG_0333

What did our pioneer ancestors use to sweeten apple butter? Besides sweet cider, sugar (brown and white), molasses, and in some cases nothing, we found that as far back as 1856, watermelon juice was the leading sweetener for vats of apple butter.

Reporting from Warren, Ohio, a correspondent to the Prairie Farmer said this: “We raise a good watermelon patch each year, planting early in May and then again toward the end of the month so as to have them come on in succession. We eat them freely in hot weather. Then in September, we haul a quantity of them to the house, split them open, scrape out the pulp into colanders, and strain the water into vessels. We boil it in an iron pot, adding apples. Boil it slowly until the fruit is well cooked. Spice to taste. The syrup can be boiled down without the fruit, to a molasses state. It keeps all winter.”

In 1912, Greenville, Ohio newspapers reported the following: “He raised watermelons and lots of them, but not for the usual purpose they are grown. He pressed the juice from them, boiled it down in copper evaporators to a fair syrup. With this syrup, he used apples for thickening to make apple butter. It was of a quality hard to beat. The syrup was of finest quality, and much of it was used.”


We could find no recipes for making the watermelon syrup or including it in a batch of apple butter; we’re pretty sure many of those old-time ways were never put to paper. It’s just the way they did it, and they passed it on by word of mouth and example.