Theresa Adams, owner of the Adams Apple Company, first cut her apple butter teeth as a little girl on her aunt’s farm outside of her hometown of Morton, Illinois. The seeds of a future apple entrepreneur sprouted as she watched the sweet, dark mixture bubble in a large copper kettle before being poured into jars to be sold at a church relief sale in nearby Peoria. After Theresa lost her mother to cancer when she was 5, she spent much of her childhood at her grandparents’ house. It was there she gained her love of cooking from Ines Jennings, her grandmother and matriarch of the large Jennings family. Kitchen staples were homemade rolls and apple pie.
“One of Grandma’s ways of showing love to her family was by cooking,” says Theresa. “She definitely instilled that in me because there is so much joy in what I do. So much of who I am and what my business is about is founded on the tastes of those memories she created.”
In 1984, Theresa moved to Lexington. During her college years, she gave apple butter to family and friends as Christmas gifts. She also met Shannon Adams, whom she married in 1992, and whose last name would unknowingly be a clever part of the business future. Apple butter remained Theresa’s go-to Christmas gift, one she perfected through the years. When her younger son, Avery, needed to raise money for a school trip to Canada, Theresa sold apple butter to friends, family, and strangers, who proclaimed it the best apple butter they ever had and encouraged Theresa to start an apple butter business. A blue ribbon win at the 2014 South Carolina State Fair validated her product’s praise. That year, Adams Apple Company was born.
Theresa credits her faith in God for her achievements. “Faith is a big part of my life and has shaped my success. I like to say I walk by faith and fly by the seat of my pants,” she says. “I know it’s what God wants me to do.” Prayer drives her decisions, allowing her to trust the choices she makes and take the next steps of growth.
The uninitiated should note that apple butter does not actually contain butter. The moniker is a nod to its signature smooth, buttery texture. Theresa uses key ingredients such as apples, sugar, and her top secret blend of spices. One successful Adams Apple Company product launch soon led to another, then another, and so on.
“My products are all my recipes, and they all have apple in the ingredient list, whether they are apples, apple juice, or apple cider vinegar,” Theresa says. Besides the obvious apple, cinnamon is another favorite ingredient of Theresa’s. “I love it. It is the center of my spice universe. I have to have it in just about every product I create.”
Shannon and their sons, Aaron, 21, and Avery, 19, have all helped with cooking and recipe testing. They also assist with market sales and perform the heavy lifting required to ship orders to Adams Apple Company’s apple-loving customers across the country. Moral support is provided by Penny and Prince, the Adams family pups.
A variety of the line, with its nostalgic plaid packaging, can be found at the Gourmet Shop in Five Points and at Mast General Store on Main Street, as well as at the Cotton Mill Exchange, Lowes Foods, the Ole Timey Meat Market, and the Columbia Museum of Art, to name but a few. In fact, the apple-inspired treats appear in specialty shops from the Lowcountry to the Upstate and in an impressive 38 states nationwide.
Adams Apple Butter is a sweet tribute to the days Theresa spent in her grandmother’s kitchen. “People say, ‘Oh my goodness, this makes me think of my grandma,’” she says. “It’s good food memories, good taste memories.” Thanks to Theresa, her family, and a few twists of fate, anyone can enjoy Adams Apple Butter straight out of the jar and relive their own special moments in time.
Adams Apple Butter Streusel Muffin
Adams Apple Butter for muffin filling (about 1/2 cup)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup finely crushed pecans
4 teaspoons softened butter
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spray jumbo muffin tin with cooking spray. Blend together dry ingredients in a small bowl, and in a larger bowl, mix wet ingredients (do not include the apple butter). Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Prepare streusel topping and mix until butter is blended and mix is crumbly.
Place a large spoonful of batter into the bottom of each muffin cup. Top with a tablespoon of any Adams Apple Butter. Sprinkle streusel topping over apple butter, then distribute remaining muffin batter equally over each of the muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining streusel over the top of each muffin. Bake at 425 degrees F for 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F and bake an additional 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.