Apple Harvest

There’s nothing quite like a crisp sweet apple, whether gala, golden delicious, winesap, honeycrisp or McIntosh. Granny Smiths and Romes are so good for cooking–pies, cobblers, applesauce, Apple Betty and other favorite recipes. My sister Suzanne, who cans hundreds of quarts of vegetables yearly from the Dovers’ small farm, as well as fruits from northeast Georgia, only canned twenty quarts of apples this year. Because of Covid restrictions her big family couldn’t have many gatherings so she had fruit left over from last year. If you stepped up on their porch during apple time you would find her and Bill paring apples while the warm aroma of a kettle of applesauce wafts its way from the kitchen.

Suzanne’s love for preserving the “fruit of the land” goes way back. Our dad bought bushels of peaches and apples in season and put all us kids to work paring and processing. Mamma canned shelves full of fruit, including blackberries from our abundant brier patches. As the weather turned frosty cool in October, Mamma sometimes sent us to our homeschool cabin classroom with newspaper-wrapped fried apple pies warming our mittened hands. It took sheer willpower not to eat your pie on the way, but if you did, you’d have to watch the others eat theirs while all that was left of yours was the smell. Years later, my husband’s grandmother endeared herself to us all making delicious fried apple pies for the family gatherings. You didn’t want to be at the back of the line for fear the apple pie tray would be empty!

An apple is such a friendly, wholesome fruit. Years ago I determined that, no matter what, I would always have apples in a bowl on our kitchen island. What a ready and delicious snack! Our grandchildren love them. They’ve learned to eat them to the core instead of throwing half-eaten ones away, although recently I’ve been mystified by someone who takes one bite from an apple and leaves it in the bowl. I have my suspicions about who it is but haven’t been able to catch the biter “apple handed.” Apples serve the double purpose of being delicious and looking beautiful and inviting in the bowl. Today I have a variety of fresh, wonderful apples brought to me by friends Billy and Louise from their annual trek to north Georgia and North Carolina. Knowing how I miss the mountains, they brought me this treat.

Other apple memories come to mind. Two of my brothers as teenagers picked apples at a nearby orchard. One of the sweetest birthday presents they ever gave me was apples hauled home in their pockets. When we adopted our daughter at five years old she had a kidney condition which prohibited her from having sugar or salt. Kindergarten moms took turns making delicious snacks for the children–cookies, brownies, cupcakes. What could I take that would be okay for Julie and interesting to all the children? I didn’t want her to feel odd. One of my solutions to the problem was–you guessed it–apples! Cutting apples in crosswise slices so the star was in the middle, I carefully removed the seeds, then spread each slice with salt free peanut butter. They were a big hit!

Back to Suzanne–every autumn she and Bill put on what they call their “Harvest Meal” for their family of four children and their families. It is the culmination of hours upon hours, days upon days of hard work from March through September. Bill and his horse plow and cultivate the creek bottomland, then he and Suzanne harvest, process and can using a wood burning stove. Though they find much merriment during the months of heavy work, that culminating feast is the essence of merriment.

At that feast you would enjoy all the rewards of the bountiful garden–squash, peas, green beans, corn, cucumber pickles, sweet potato souffle, stuffed eggs, as well as figs from a tree on the hill–and, of course, applesauce and Suzanne’s signature Apple Cake. That recipe is in the back of my book, Christmas Carols in my Heart, along with a few other family recipes and craft instructions. I talked to Suzanne the day before the feast. She put me on speaker phone so she could continue chopping onions for a big pot of chili, part of this year’s Harvest Meal. She was also planning to make cornbread and a peach berry cobbler. The only thing on the table, other than the fruit, not raised on the farm would be a roasted hen. Their chickens, Suzanne said, were only for laying eggs.

Though I’ve never been present for the big Harvest Meal, I have enjoyed many times around the Dovers’ large table weighed down with the abundance of the crops. I can hear now Bill’s deep voice giving thanks to God for the crops and many other blessings.

Writing this I’m “forced” by nostalgia and yearning to make a pot of applesauce. Apple slices in the pot I add water very sparingly, turn the heat on low and check often to be sure the apples aren’t sticking and to breathe in a strong lung full of the hearty aroma. A variety of Granny Smiths, galas, and honeycrisps, whatever is available, make a good mix. When apples are soft, mash to a desirable consistency. Some apples don’t “cook up” as smoothly as others. Lumps are fine and some peeling is good for you! Sometimes, depending on how sweet the apples are, you may want to add some brown sugar. Serve it warm or store for up to a week in the refrigerator and serve cold, a scrumptious side dish, especially good with homemade bread and butter.

Is anything better than sweet, crisp apples? Maybe a word fitly spoken? Proverbs 25:11 says: A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Special to my readers

I still have copies of Christmas Carols in my Heart. If you would like autographed copies at $12 each including shipping, contact me at topdawgs@syrupcity.net. Stories of twelve old familiar carols like Silent Night are accompanied by a few of my own special Christmas memories. Each chapter includes space for the reader’s own journaling notes making it a treasure to pass on to one’s children and grandchildren. Illustrated with charming chapter heading pen and ink drawings by Christina A. Graham, this little book makes an excellent small Christmas gift.

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