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Red apple trees surrounded by birch

How to make the perfect apple crisp:

Find a tree laden with wild apples.  Cultivated apples are OK, too.  If you find a tree the pioneers planted, your crisp will be filled with pioneer spirit.  Try to avoid the grocery store.  Supermarket apples tend to be filled with supermarket spirit.  Not conducive to the best apple crisp.

Laden with apples even in December!

Fill an oiled 8 inch pan three-quarters full of sliced peeled apples.  Peer in at your apples.  Smell them.  Remember what summer felt like.  Remember what autumn felt like.  Take a bite.  Slowly savor the apple-crispin’ flavor of the apple before you even bake it. Crunch.  Chew slowly.  Chew even more slowly so you can taste every single subtle sweet tangy buttery whatever-you-might-call-it flavor.  Think of three words to describe your apple flavor.  Pretend that you’re an apple connoisseur. 

Looking up with apples

After you’ve filled your pan with apples, it’s topping time!  You have two choices.  You can pile a traditional topping over the apples such as the one below:

Traditional:  Mix 3/4 cup quick oats, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup soft margarine or butter.  Mix together well and place over the delectable apples. (Optional:  add nuts and cinnamon, as described below.)

Or you can choose Vegan, also known as non-dairy.  Which is what I would choose at this stage in my life.  But because I don’t write recipe creations down, I’m going to try to remember the last (approximate) apple crisp topping created:

Kathy’s topping:  Mix 3/4 cup oats, 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour, two tablespoons vegetable oil (OK you guys can use three tablespoons if you still have good gall bladders) and three tablespoons of maple syrup, honey, agave syrup or rice syrup.  Toss in cinnamon!  Not too much, not too little.  Maybe a teaspoon if you’re into needing more exact measurements.  Now go find your nuts.  Grab a handful of pecans, chopped almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews or whatever kind you like.  Just chop ’em up into a reasonable bite-able size.  Add to the topping mixture.  OK, and if you adore flaked coconut, add some of that, too.  That looks good, doesn’t it?   Ready for the oven.

Yellow Christmas balls of apples adorn limbs

Now put the apple crisp in the oven to bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.  Think about how much you enjoy seeing those apple trees at the sides of roads at this time of year.  The world looks gray and bleak and the trees wave their skeleton arms at you as you pass. 

But in the midst of all that grayness, the Apple Trees still cling to their apple children!  Like red and yellow Christmas balls, they brighten up the landscape.  On a sunshiny-blue-sky day, they look awesome.  On a gray spitting snow day, their decorations look more muted, but you notice how their colors still make you feel…more festive.

Fallen apples sprinkled with sweet snow

I don’t suppose you should gather up the apples pictured above to eat now, though.  Nope, they’ve been frozen more than once and are mushier than baked crisp. They are now reserved for the deer. You should have thought about your apple crisp in the autumn.  (We don’t call this season autumn any more here.  Nope.  Even though they say winter doesn’t start for another two or three weeks, it’s definitely winter here.) 

But now your timer is beeping and the smells coming out of your oven are FABULOUS!  You thank those pioneers.  You thank the farmers.  If you can eat ice cream, go ahead and ladle a little scoop on your plate next to that steaming apple crisp.  Oh look at it melt…

Now it’s time to take a bite.  Ahhh…yessss….yum….apple crisp!

P.S.  If anyone wants to disagree about the wonderful fabulous exceptional part of this heading…your difficulty would probably be that you couldn’t find pioneer or wild apples.  Try to find ’em next year, OK?

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Apples

Apples

Hey, what do you know, it’s the last day of August!

And you know what that means when you wander outside around these parts?

It means that apples are loaded upon the trees, apples upon apples, weighing heavy upon the branches, dragging them down toward the earth.

Two apples

Two apples

We don’t have any apple trees nearby our house in the woods.  We’re in a “new” part of the forest which hasn’t been inhabited by people too much.  The apple trees lie in orchards in “old” parts of this land, parts of the land settled by old-timers who have long since passed on.  They’ve left the shining orbs of apples behind; and this year they are hanging ripe and heavy on almost every gnarled tree.

Lil tiny green apple

Lil tiny green apple

I actually grew up among an apple orchard.  In the backyard of our house in Yale, Michigan, grew a dozen noble apple trees.  They were getting old even then, back in the 1960’s.  We built sandboxes and tire swings beneath their mighty branches and climbed high in their limbs, attempting to reach the skies.  (My brothers climbed higher than I did; I quaked in the lower branches closer to the safety of the ground while they dangled ‘way up there near the clouds.) 

I recently have been reading a book sent by a dear blog reader friend named Sahlah (or Dawn).  It’s called “Peace at Heart:  An Oregon Country Life” by Barbara Drake.  The author talks about how she samples dozens and dozens of wild apples.  She records the taste and look on a chart…I was in awe of this upon reading the way she discriminated between the hundreds of apples, noticing their differences and similarities, their sweet and sour, their tang and twist.  It made me want to begin sampling these apples today.  But no, it’s still too early.  The apple-juices are still coming ripe on their twigs; let’s wait til September or early October to sample their sweet fruit.

Swath of green apples covers the branches

Swath of green apples covers the branches

I wandered among the apple orchards for a half hour today, lost in the sound of singing cicadas (well, maybe that’s what they are), enjoying the last half-way warm day in August.  The ground lay littered with pine needles and the birds sang a quarter mile away.  There is a hush one hears and feels in woods like these; it silences you. 

The silence lies so enchanted you forget to dream of apple pie or apple crisp.

Instead your eyes notice a spider web spun perfectly between in a tree.  You marvel at its perfect symmetry, attempting to capture it gleaming in the sunlight.

Mystical light in the forest reveals the Spiderweb

Mystical light in the forest reveals the Spiderweb

Later will come a time for baking the earth’s offering of apples, for tasting the cinnamon and struesel.  For now, we wait.

The juices continue to ripen as our sun turns toward its equinox…

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