An apple a day…

A bushel of apples–I think–I don’t know what a bushel is, and I don’t care enough to Google it, which is saying something from the girl who has Googled such gems as “Rachel Ray needs a boob job” and “repeated dreams that one leg is longer than the other and I run all gimpy”

Ah, apple season. The crisp smell of leaves, crunching beneath the workboots of bearded woodsmen, heading out to tap maple trees of their thick, golden syrup. The sharp tang of cinnamon tints the air, and the sound of feed, pitter-patter-scatter across the chilly ground, as red-cheeked cherubs feed the turkeys to fatten them for Thanksgiving…

It’s a magical thing, apple season. Except for in Texas. In Texas, apple season is in July and early August. It seems the heat–the blistering, soulless heat–acts as hormone-laden milk to the apples, causing them to mature when it’s still the dead, dying middle of summer. It’s freakin’ weird. But I love apples in a way that’s almost unhealthy, so I’ll take it when I can get it. Even if it means temporarily hip-checking gorgeous summer berries out of the picture, so that I can focus on the very-distinctly-fall fruits. Sad, kinda.

Not to be deterred by the unnaturally premature development of my beloved apples, Chris and I just went with it. We woke up early on Saturday and packed into the car for a 90 minute trek out of town to the apple orchards. Medina, TX has the dubious honor of being named “The Apple Capital of Texas.” Kind of like calling Anchorage “The Peach Capital of Alaska”, but whatever. Medina is a town that consists of a small orchard, a store devoted entirely to apple kitsch, two gas-station-cum-general-stores, and a tiny town square, covered by a peeling white pergola, that becomes a farmer’s market each Saturday. A tiny, squalid farmer’s market, but a farmer’s market nonetheless, in that it has farmers (usually two), marketing their produce (usually two or three different kinds of produce, all of which look like they’ve been attacked by angry moles).

We pulled up to the orchard, lured by the online promise of “pick your own” apples. Apple pickin’ sounded quaint and homestead-y, which appealed to Chris’s and my less rational ideas of what we could and would be, were we not so horrified by Texas nature (here I’m thinking of various flesh-eating ants, as well as UV rays visible to the naked eye). After a few minutes of milling aimlessly in front of the abandoned orchard, a nice, mustachioed hispanic man pulled up in a ramshackle truck to greet us. He had large splotches of orange egg yolk on his face, with pieces of the white clinging tenaciously to his mustache. Hott. He was incredibly friendly, if a little hard to follow, and ran behind the farmhouse, emerging moments later with a golf cart. He jumped into his truck without a word about the golf cart, then drove off into the orchard. Mmmmkay…

I knocked on the door of the farmhouse, trying to ascertain whether or not I was supposed to be following in the cart, or waiting for him, or what. An old lady answered and told us to “git on out there and follow him to the apples.” Sure thing, lady. We hopped on the golf cart and hauled semi-confused butt out to the orchard. Mr. Mustache was was waiting patiently, gestured gruffly at the rows we were allowed to harvest, and then left. And all of a sudden it was just Chris and me, a golf cart, and a few boxes, standing in front of a row of laughably small apple trees. We got to work.

The trees bore clumps of apples that were similarly laughably small, with a few here and there that looked at least marginally respectable in girth.

Me picking one of the three apples I managed before the attack. I look sweaty, but that’s just a trick of the light. The actual sweating didn’t occur until a solid three, maybe even four, minutes later

We started pulling them off and chucking them into our boxes. The first tree, third apple, I got to had a little brown clump next to the stem. When I held it up to my eye to examine the clump, checking to see if it was some kind of apple disease I wouldn’t want to eat, it unfurled itself into an alarmingly large spider. I hurled the apple about 50 yards into the clump of trees and resigned myself to the role of foreman, pointing at apples for Chris to pick. No way in hell I was sacrificing any limbs.

He was a pretty good sport, grabbing the apples I found, as well as many of his own. Sure, his grabbing of the apples was quick and minimized any extended hand contact. He’d rip them from the tree, and throw them at the box I was holding, hoping that any lingering “nature” would be slower at rousing than he was at throwing. About every third apple he’d pull would have some “threat” that he’d perceive, causing him to throw them on the ground and announce “that one spoiled the bunch.” Sometimes he’d refuse to pull the ones I’d point at, explaining patiently “that one’s keeping me away.” Laugh a minute, that guy.

Chris bravely grabbing apples. My knight in shining Nike.

We decided to quit when Chris saw some ants tromping in a line across the hose like some sort of communist military regime. We already had about 25 lbs of apples, which was plenty for our modest apple needs, and we both were feeling very lucky that our worst nature assault hadn’t resulted in loss of life or limb. No need to push that luck.

But it turns out that 25 lbs of apples is…A SHITLOAD OF APPLES. So we spent the entire weekend dealing with them. We baked apple pies and apple tarts. We processed and canned apple butter and apple slices. We made apple caramel, and feed strands of apple peels to our dog, who (not unlike a goat) loves them. Thank God for our apple corer/peeler, which made lighter work for us. Now we just need to get a housekeeper to mop the sticky up off of every available surface in our kitchen (including the floors and ceilings). Turns out dealing with that many apples means apple juice and cinnamon and sugar get spread on everything. I’m actually afraid of our kitchen right now.

The apple pie was a treat. I made a crust with 2/3 butter and 1/3 lard for the fat, making it flaky and savory and sweet and crumbly all at the same time. Then cooked the apples just a touch, leaving the crisp intact, using a sticky turbinado-style sugar that still has gobs of deep molasses flavor throughout. The apples went into the crust, got a quick lattice top, and baked until golden brown.

Excuse the yellow pictures. It was late night and I was too lazy to unearth my lighting props

Scoops of Ben and Jerry’s Cinnamon Bun ice cream went alongside, making us both roll around on the floor in fits of ecstacy. I’m a big fan of the chunks in ice cream, and this has bumper crops of cinnamon bun dough and thick cinnamon goo swirl throughout. Absolutely perfect as a foil for the rick and thick crust.

Go buy a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cinnamon Bun and let me know what you think. I enjoyed it again, for lunch. I need to go to the gym…

And we ended up canning 12 pints of apple butter and 7 quarts of sliced apples for pies later on.

That’s cinnamon, not funk

Less than 24 hours from tree to preservation means a fresh-tasting product all winter. The “fresh” apples in the stores right now were harvested last year and kept in storage. Sort of brings a whole new view to the idea of “fresh”, doesn’t it?
Ack, gotta go. Willie is licking the floor, trying to get all of the various juices up for us. It’s a sweet gesture, but will likely result in a sticky dog, which is the last thing I need.

21 thoughts on “An apple a day…”

  1. Dude, maple syrup season is in MARCH. In the SPRINGTIME.

    It's just so very wrong to be apple picking in August. You should be irately disrupting healthcare town meetings with incoherent screams instead, don't you think? Give yourself a quick coat-hanger lobotomy first, and bring a big bag of spiders to help with the screaming.

  2. I don't know when the hell maple syrup season is–I'm from Colorado, not Vermont. That said, I'd KILL to spend a maple season in Vermont. I love maple syrup so million bad. Mmmmm….

    As for the town hall meetings, I'd love to go be disruptive (per teabag instruction), but I'm busy having actual "discussions" about "issues" with intelligent folk. Et tu?

  3. Kill some teabaggers and win a no-expenses paid trip to our beautiful Vermont place in March-April next year. Seriously, you're welcome. A trip to the Northeast would do wonders for you.


  4. Yeah for "apple" season. I did the same thing a few years ago in Utah – the result – 24 pints of delicious apple pie filling canned to perfection in my basement foodstorage room. I only have about 5 left so I am planning on doing it all again this year. i use it to make a homestyle apple crisp, coffee cake, or pie whenever my little homestyle heart wants.

  5. Man's chief concern in life should not be the aquiring of gold, or of fame, or of material possessions. It should not be the development of physical prowess, nor of intellectual strength, but his aim, the highest in life, should be the development of a Christ-like character.

  6. Goodness me, back again, anonymous? And still afraid to put your name next to your wussy-ass judgments?

    If you're going to quote ex-presidents of the Mormon church on my blog, at least try to spell the quotes correctly. Or does that fall under the guidelines of not having to have "intellectual strength?"

    Just so you know, having a church edict that says you shouldn't be smart or attractive doesn't make it true.

    "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction." That's Proverbs 1:7, and it comes from the BIBLE, not just some dude.

    Now go run off your chub, apply some lip gloss and read a book. I promise being cute and brainy doesn't guarantee you a spot in hell.

  7. Apple season on August?!? What sort of teabagging, un-American hellhole do you live in? Oh right. Texas. Of course.

    That apple pie really does look like it would hit the spot though…

    And who the hell is Anonymous? Is anyone else tired of these weasels?

  8. Sometimes I'm anonymous, but I usually tell you that I love you and sign off, "momma" – and I certainly know better than to tell any of my children that they needn't be strong and smart, not to mention hot.
    Your apples look luscious, sweet pea.
    Love and hugs. Momma

  9. 1. I always assumed that if I was a man I would have a moustache (a big one, too, not some sissy shaved in line) but the thought of having food stuck in it terrifies me. Why is it ALWAYS EGGS that get stuck in the 'stache? Perhaps because, delicious though they are, there's something intrinsically upsetting about egg yolks?

    2. Familiar with apple butter, although I've never made it, but what in god's name is 'apple caramel' and how do I get some of that?!

    3. Yeah, I know, I'm not really anonymous, but I felt an itching need to jump on this bandwagon and be part of the pack.

    Cheers, Tina

  10. I love you very much and sometimes I love watching you sleep.

    Now THAT would be especially creepy if it were from your true anonymous stalker. But its from your devoted husband who thinks the world of you.


  11. P.S.
    You are right I always get the ie/ei thing wrong. My bad.

    I guess it's only plagerism if they catch you – Just like the chinese food!

    I actually didn't put the name because I wanted to get where you were coming from. You like to give your comments to people who oppose Obama – and you do it in a most rude way I might add. Even bringing religion into it when religion isn't even mentioned. So I had a feeling you left or were kicked out of the LDS church.
    That is usually the case.
    I could probably peg you as a teenage bad girl who left the church and says bad things about it not necessarily because she doesn't believe it but she's talked herself out of it to make her feel better about "doing whatever the hell" she wants to do in life.
    It still doesn't change things and I am sure somewhere you have a broken hearted mother.

    But keep reading the bible it's something at least!

  12. Oops another P.S. I just keep feeling the need to educate your closed mind.

    So I will just tell you that the bible was written by "dudes". Yep they were men too!

  13. Naw…not LDS myself. I'm a more liberal brand of Christianity, myself.

    My best friend growing up was/is LDS, and she's awesome and non-judgmental and funny and gorgeous. So I have absolutely NOTHING against the religion or its members. They overall seem like happy, family-oriented, great people.

    I only take issues with people of ALL religions who act like complete assholes, and like they're morally superior to everyone who doesn't hold onto their same beliefs. And when I blog my opinions, they're offered on MY OWN BLOG. Anyone who disagrees is welcome to, without some kind of vigilante retribution.

    As for my "heartbroken" mother, she's comment number 13 on this blog, and seems pretty delighted to have an intelligent kid who grew up into a decent person with a "wicked" sense of humor. So…suck it, Trebek.

    You're welcome here anytime, but try to own up to your comments. Nobody likes a sneak. And fewer than nobody likes a judgmental, sanctimonious sneak who skulks around blogs refusing to identify herself and calling blog authors closed-minded.

    P.S. It wasn't the ie/ei thing that got me, so much as the blatant misspelling of the word "acquired."

  14. To: Anonymous
    Subject: Remove

    Thank you.

    PS (as its apparently in vogue to add about a bazillion of them to posts these days) — don't let some internet hate get anyone down. God places difficult and sometimes terrible people on this earth to challenge us and our faith.

    Anonymous is just one of those "challenges." Like lepers. Or Kim Jong Il.

  15. OHMYGOODNESS I love a good apple pie. I do miss fresh apples in August. One of the very (and I meal little to none) few good things about living in that horrendously hot state. And of course fresh oranges and grapefruits from the valley. YUMMO!!!

    I feel all out of the loop by not replying anonymously…but oh well. Its just me. Former Texan blog stalker who thinks you are effing hilarious and who is a Colorado lover in her heart!!

  16. I love everything apple-y. For the past several years my grandma has forced me (at gunpoint, sometimes) to take home bushel after bushel of apples from the trees on her farm. By the time the season is over, I always say I'm sick of them – but by apple season the next year, I'm drooling over the thought of a nice flaky homemade apple pie.

    *drool* <--- See?

  17. Off topic – in the Middle Ages, when lepers were kept in discrete colonies to discourage disease transmission (kind of. More about social stigma, but I prefer to put on my rose colored glasses once in a while), they were generally allowed to travel into town or use the fountains on certain days or once per week. The lepers, however, had to put on these big oven-mitt like contraptions and shake a tin cup to announce their arrival, yelling, "UNCLEAN!! UNCLEEEAAAANNNN!!!!" For whatever reason, this has always stuck with me. And now, if I so much as walk by a person with a tambourine, I want to grab it, shake it vigorously and yell, "UNCLEAN!!!!!"

    I blame Chris for giving me an opening to talk about lepers. Sorry, back to apples…and apple caramel, which I'd like to know more about….

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