I’m so excited that it’s ‘apple picking season’. I have a TON of memories about apples in my life. Growing up in Ontario I have been so blessed to be able to enjoy this fruit fresh picked every year.
I remember going out with my Dad each year to pick the perfect apple. My three siblings and I would resist going to the apple farm early in the cool autumn mornings but then we wouldn’t want to leave. My dad would force us to get bundled up soon after the new school year started and we’d begin the trek out. Back then we lived in Toronto and it took maybe an hour to arrive. When we got there we’d see the tractor or horse drawn trailers waiting to amble slowly back into the perfect spot for picking that day. We’d hop down with our empty bags and run off in all directions. After picking maybe half a dozen apples, we’d decide it was too heavy to carry and poor Dad would end up lugging all of them around, eventually with my little sister on his back too. What a guy! Snacks for the day were of course fresh picked apples, (and then you tried to nail your sibling in the back with the core.)
My Grandma made the most delicious apple crumble when I stayed with her in BC. I was fortunate enough to visit many times and each time I’d watch her slice and peel the apples to the perfect size in her hand, the knife sharp but not cutting her thumb as she went through enough for the dish. It was rhythmic and methodical. I was allowed to stir together the brown sugar and oats for the topping. Then we added the butter and I squished it all through my fingers to make sure it was blended properly. The graininess of the sugar, the lumpy oats and the slipperiness of the butter are still incredible tactile memories for me. Grandma knew how to keep kids entertained. The smell of it baking in my oven now takes me right back to those days while peering at this process from nose height to the counter.
My brothers as Beavers and Cub Scouts handed out apples on Apple Day to raise money for their camps and activities. Decades later my son and daughter – both of them Scouts, would do the same thing. My husband a Scout leader, would join them as they stood by grocery stores, donut shops, sports centres and one year at a bank drive through in the pouring rain. My job was to shuttle hot chocolate, donuts and tissue refills to the different locations around our town. Some spots were better than others and each year we rotated around so the different troupes had turns at the good ones.
Its a long day for these kids and adults who volunteer their time. Apple day happens every year in October so make sure you stop by and say hello to encourage them – they so need the kind words and smiles from strangers to get through the day. And while the little Beavers are cute as buttons, the gangly adolescent Scouts crave positive attention too. Toss them a few bucks while you are at it. A little goes a long way. It means even more if you take an apple – they aren’t selling them they are handing them out – if a kid feels like they are making one person happy, it makes their day and creates memories that will last a lifetime. Trust me on this.
We live on the eastern border of the Greater Toronto Area now. My favourite apple wine and cider orchard is just up the road to the north. (Archibald’s Orchard) To the east there is an orchard that brings in cheeses from all over the place to pair with its applies. (Algoma Orchards) Both of these establishments are very generous with their sampling – you could make a day of it – and we often do when people come to visit.
Not only do I live surrounded by apple orchards, I also have a huge apple tree in my backyard. Apples end up in pretty much everything (including my dogs, family, friends, neighbours and the local wildlife – we like to share.)
My husband hooked my daughter and I on apples and peanut butter as a quick, healthy snack. Even my son, the world’s pickiest eater, had apple sauce and juice as a staple growing up. We also enjoy apple wine, apple donuts, apple butter, apple pie, apple crumble, cider… it’s a perfect food. Our town has an annual AppleFest with apple dumplings, apple pancakes, apple everything.
One of my favourite recipes is apple cake that a friend taught me a few years ago. The recipe is on my blog here. It is a great way to use up apples we have from this one tree – plus it makes a delicious gift and you can freeze it. (But they get eaten at our house so quickly that they never make it to the freezer.)
Something I do quite often is make crostinis. I love to have a savoury topping on top of goats cheese with a few slivers of spicy Empire apple over top – the flavour explosions in your mouth are wonderful.
Do you have any favourite apple recipes or memories from your childhood? I’d love to hear them!