Monday, October 17, 2011

Red and Orange Extravaganza

Apples and pumpkins are a potent combination. They have a pull at this time of year which leads us, as if by instinct or some ancient ancestral longing, in search of nature's bounty in the beauty of the countryside.

Offered together in one big October extravaganza they make it sheer joy to drive beyond the city limits as you look to reap your own harvest of happy times.

The recent breezy sunny weekend was perfect for indulging in the annual fall ramble. The parking lot of the apple orchard - an apple farm across town not visited for many years - was the first giveaway of the popularity of a stop like this in the weeks before Halloween.

Young families with wind-nipped rosy cheeked toddlers were in the majority. They were transporting some of the tots by wagon. The wagons, with space to accommodate purchases when the time came, trundled over the uneven ground in an approximation of a bumpy hayride.

The smell of fried apple treats followed us up the hill through the apple trees. Apple fritters we said. Our knees, like our resolve, buckled under the temptation. It turns out it was apple doughnuts that had its hook in us, as confirmed by comments of others who had surrendered to the olfactory invitation.

An old apple storage barn caught our attention. We learned that the rustic barn is now called the theater. It is used for the school field trips that bring hundreds of elementary students to the apple orchards every fall.

The vintage barn with its wooden seating lets the children soak up the atmosphere of apple farming and a taste of apple lore - as well as samples of apples, as we ourselves had afterwards.

A grocery store visit can be different for students after their trip to the orchards. Apples in the store have an association and a background thanks to the orchard experience. The youngsters can better grasp food in the context of its journey from tree or field to table.

The understanding may only lightly sink in at the time. Even taken as it is - time out of class in a different setting - is enough to spark new concepts best taught on location.

The pumpkin alley lay beyond the orchards as we went further along. Pumpkins in all sizes and shapes composed various groupings as far as we could see. It made the hunt for pumpkins interesting.

The golden globes, from tiny to huge, and great numbers of them, weren't stacked neatly by size or weight. They weren't put together so that all it took was a cursory glance to make a decision. This would have been the easy way. Changing things up a bit, making you look if you wanted to play the game that way, was a lot more fun.

The pumpkins, distributed in various groupings along a cleared strip of ground, stretched to an adjacent cornfield.

You could walk to the end if you preferred. You could hold off on a selection until you were practically in the next county. Or you could choose from pumpkins set closer to the smell of the donuts, which many chose to do.

Watching folks wrestle their pumpkins back to the start point was interesting. The weightier pumpkins were lifted and lugged with maximum effort. Those with wagons had a decided advantage. Their pumpkins rolled out almost regally under wheeled escort.

Down in the corn maze all was warm among the shocks of corn. As we breasted the hill between the rows of laden apple trees, retracing our route to the apple store, the wind was more raw than bracing.

We looked forward to getting inside. Apple stores, with their apple operations onsite, tend to be cool places. Our jackets felt as good in there as outside but at least we were out of the brunt of the wind.

Past bottles of apple cider, stacked cartons of cookies, the department with the ready-made pies, a conveyer with a bobbling parade of apples claimed our attention from the glass domes of apple slice samples.

A viewing platform had us mounting the steps, which stairs get you you do if you're curious and want to see more.

It doesn't take being mechanical to stand quietly before a working conveyer. There's something admirable in its brisk efficiency. It's natural response to be at least momentarily held fast. A business at work with all systems running and the product in view is worth a glance.

Employees stood at intervals sorting or grading apples or whatever their responsibility was. The apples skating along in front of them are this year's crop. The 2011 harvest will bring health and hearty touches to fall snacks, meals and desserts. It's as satisfying a thought to chew upon as the apple bread set out on tables all wrapped and ready for purchase.

A visit to the apple orchard lets you be seasonal baker whether through the fresh or frozen pie you bring home or the apple recipes you're inspired to try. Our trip to the apple farm reminds me of an apple cake introduced by my sister-in-law which has been a family favorite ever since.


Mix together 1/2 cup butter, softened, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 egg and 1 tsp. vanilla. Add 2 cups flour, 2 tsp. baking soda, 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. cloves, 1/4. tsp. nutmeg. Stir in 1 1/2 cups applesauce. Add 1 cup chopped walnuts and 1 cup raisins (optional). Pour into greased 13 x 9 inch pan.

Bake 35 minutes or until golden brown on top in preheated 350 degree oven. Cool. Ice with penuche frosting, below.


Melt 1/2 cup butter in saucepan. Add 1 cup brown sugar. Boil over low heat two minutes stirring constantly. Stir in 1/4 cup milk. Bring to a boil stirring constantly. Cool to lukewarm. Gradually add 1 3/4 to 2 cups powdered sugar. Beat until right consistency to spread.

Ro Giencke - October 17, 2011

No comments:

Post a Comment