Traditions are the glue which helps to hold a family together. Some traditions are based on holidays or seasons, while others are unique to each family, created because of the interests and loves of those particular people. Fall brings both holiday traditions and seasonal memories, often based on the foods that are popular during the season. Today, I took a walk down memory lane thinking of traditions in our family that have grown up around one of the most popular and versatile fall fruits, the apple.
“To appreciate the wild and sharp flavors of these October fruits, it is necessary that you be breathing the sharp October or November air. What is sour in the house a bracing walk makes sweet. Some of these apples might be labeled, ‘To be eaten in the wind.’ It takes a savage or wild taste to appreciate a wild fruit … The era of the Wild Apple will soon be past. It is a fruit which will probably become extinct in New England. I fear that he who walks over these fields a century hence will not know the pleasure of knocking off wild apples. Ah, poor soul, there are many pleasures which you will not know! … The end of it all will be that we shall be compelled to look for our apples in a barrel.”—Henry David Thoreau
My kids may not know the pleasure of knocking off wild apples, but they would argue that some of the best tasting apples in the world come from a barrel—provided it is near an apple orchard. They and their grandparents have a lovely fall tradition of going together out to an apple orchard, selecting the best tasting apples they can find, and bringing them home to make homemade applesauce. They wash and cook the apples, feed them through the strainer, add just enough sugar to take out the tartness, and package it all in freezer containers. It is truly a labor of love, and one whose fruits we enjoy for the rest of the year. Fall just wouldn’t be the same without their applesauce-making weekend!
My grandmother was a baker—not by profession, but by habit. She was a country woman at heart and she baked a few pies everyday whether she needed to or not. I always loved her pies, but I really miss her apple dumplings. To me, they were the ultimate comfort food, and a mighty good breakfast with some milk poured over them! She also participated in making apple butter the old-fashioned way with a group of friends, cooking it all day in a huge black kettle, and then canning it for the winter. In her later years, she began making her apple butter in a Crockpot. All of the flavor, none of the hassle.
I have carried on the apple butter tradition—the Crockpot version, not the Little House on the Prairie version. It takes two days in a Crockpot, so plan it on a weekend if you work away from home during the week. It doesn’t require much effort. I freeze mine in canning jars, but you could freeze it in plastic containers or can it and store it on a shelf. It’s not hard at all, so if you’re looking for a good way to bring home the taste of fall and wow your friends with your domestic abilities, then try this apple butter recipe:
Crockpot Apple Butter
4 cups sugar ( I use brown sugar or succanat)
8 cups cooked apples
1/2 cup vinegar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Wash, peel, and slice apples thin. Pack into Crockpot until full. Add only enough water to keep from sticking to the bottom. Cook all day, covered on low; that night, add 4 cups of sugar to 8 cups of cooked apples (adjust sugar if less than 8 cups). Add 1/2 cup vinegar; stir well and cook all night, covered on low. The next morning, add spices. Cook, uncovered, on high for 3 hours. Fill jars and freeze them when cooled to room temperature, or fill jars and seal, if canning.
Yummy! Makes great gifts, too!
Nothing says happy kids in fall like caramel apples, so why wait for the fall carnivals to get them? Caramel apples are easy to make and a delightful way to enjoy some of the bountiful fall harvests. Yes, they can be messy when eaten, so for younger kids especially, make them an outdoor treat. You just need some small- to medium-sized apples, caramel candies, popsicle sticks, and wax paper. Stick the popsicle sticks in the apples, melt the caramels in a saucepan, dip the apples in the caramel, set them on the wax paper, and put them in the fridge for an hour to cool. We made a dozen in about a half and hour this weekend, but nobody wanted to wait a full hour for them to harden. The result: we had a major tug of war battle between the caramel and the wax paper, but those who didn’t mind chewing on a little wax paper still had a scrumptious treat.
What about your family growing up, or your family today? Do you have favorite fall memories or traditions with apples? What new traditions do you want to start? What apple recipes do you love? Please share with us!