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2023 Coolest Things Made in the Ozarks: Student-Made Apple Butter

College of the Ozarks

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College of the Ozarks provides students with hands-on vocational training as part of its mission. On campus and through its website, C of O Retail Operations Director Kiley Hutcheson says customers can purchase a range of student-made items like note cards, fruitcakes and small-batch, hand-crafted apple butter, which is sold around the world.

SBJ: Why does College of the Ozarks make and sell apple butter?
Kiley Hutcheson: College of the Ozarks has been established since 1906, and one of the first things we started with was our cannery, and out of the cannery we’ve evolved into fruit spreads, jellies and apple butter. The apple butter has carried through. We tried to stick with the recipe as close as possible to what we’ve always made.

SBJ: Is the recipe a secret?
Hutcheson: It is not in a vault, but it is one that we try not to give out because it is something we have passed down through the years. We have slightly modified it over the years. Currently, we have removed the use of red dye that gave the original recipe a dark rich color. Now, we add more spices – cinnamon, cloves and allspice – to enhance the natural color. It’s actually a lot better. It’s a keeper recipe.

SBJ: How do education and culinary products relate?
Hutcheson: At C of O, it’s a unique opportunity of what we do here. Students are getting quality education, but also through their workstations, they learn practical skills in a teamwork environment. When students first start, they might not think, “How is apple butter going to help me with my future career?” We’re teaching them aspects of understanding that producing something can be a reflection of you, your education and what the college stands for. That is quality and hard work.

SBJ: What roles do the students have in making the apple butter?
Hutcheson: Our fruitcake and jelly kitchen produces the product, and then it’s sent to the retail operations team, which makes sure the jars are inspected (and) quality checked. Then, they will run through the labeler, check those, then pack them up to either deliver to the campus gift shops or have them ready to pack for any oncoming orders from the website. When students are producing the apple butter in the kettles, they’re not just making apple butter. The end result will have the information about the school on it, and that it’s a student-made, hand-crafted, small-batch production. Students are the last ones to see the product before someone else gets it, so it really comes down to the students, their story, their hands.

SBJ: What are some ways to enjoy the apple butter?
Hutcheson: Of course, you can’t go wrong with just putting it on a piece of toast. But we have really tried to look at how to change apple butter, take a favorite, and evolve that. We have used our apple butter by mixing it into our scone mix; heat it up with orange juice to make apple cider. We have made a meat glaze, too, and added it to mashed sweet potatoes for autumnal flavoring.


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