Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bushels and Bushels of Apples

Apple recipe links at the bottom of this post.

"Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed."  Robert H. Schuller

Who doesn't like visiting an apple orchard and cider mill?  

When I was a kid living outside of Detroit, we'd pile in the car each fall and set off for the local cider mill in Franklin, Michigan, where we'd jockey for a parking position along the narrow, old, village street upon which the mill sat.  I could have found my way from the car with my eyes closed, simply by following the intoxicating aroma of frying donuts and sweet cider.  We were allowed one donut and a cup of cider each, before returning  home with a gallon jug, a bag of apples, and smiles on our faces.  

Mom's fresh apple pies, fritters and sauce were standards in our house, but in the fall, what we most enjoyed, were Dad's candied apples.  I'm not sure how or why this particular job fell to my father, but it was always his production and he made the most of it.

When my children were small, we found a similarly delightful orchard and mill outside of Toledo, Ohio where we lived at the time.  I can't remember the name of the place, but memories linger still of the girls with their cherubic faces pressed up against the glass that separated the cider press from the rest of the barn, where bags of apples, pumpkins and gourds, piled high on wooden tables, beckoned customers.  There weren't any homemade donuts at the orchard in Toledo, but the girls got something they thought even better, pony rides! 

Last summer, on one of our many trips back and forth to the cottage, I noticed a small wooden sign on the side of the road advertising a cider mill.  My heart leaped with joy at the thought of having a place to take my grandchildren for a paper cupful of handmade, local cider.  On a subsequent trip, I pulled off the road to investigate and found, after some meandering, the most beautifully maintained family orchard, cider mill, and country gift shop.

I made several stops back this fall with my daughter and grand kids, where we sampled the apple fritters, turnovers and pies, that were assembled and baked before our eyes in the wonderful little barn-kitchen, by Amish neighbors.  
Across from the kitchen, the men-folk spread layers of crushed apples onto burlap lined trays, they'd stack high under the press.  Finally, with the flip of a switch, the press came alive, and as it compacted, the sweet, golden cider rained down from the trays, and into a cauldron.                                                       
Apples are most prolific in the month of October, and they say, are best eaten shortly after they're picked while their flesh is still firm, and crisp.  I never thought about the actual age of a picked apple eaten in April, or May.  Imagine the days before refrigeration, when apples were stored in wooden barrels, buried beneath the dirt floor of the family root cellar.  Its a wonder there was anything worth eating come spring, or summer.

I love apples, and bought bushels of them this autumn, which I processed into sauce and butter to be savored this winter.  My favorite eating apple is a Honey Crisp, but they're not always easy to find, and are usually the first variety to sell-out at neighborhood orchards and markets. So far this autumn, we've enjoyed apple pie and fritters, crisps, muffins and apple cake.  Check out the links below for some of those recipes.  Check back often, as more will be posted.

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