I have been struggling to make time to sit on a limb with stick and string. Whether due to office duties or relief effort spraying for mosquitoes from the recent south Louisiana hurricanes, the phone won’t stop ringing and the email won’t stop dinging. As well, I’m sure you realize “our” favorite month of the year is halfway gone. I keep telling myself, “just another day or so and I’ll be free.” Well, to this point I’ve been kidding myself. I have managed to release a few field-tipped shafts to the block in my neighborhood and amazingly hit the center dot a few times. At least this is encouraging.
Stands are secured, flagged, and bright-eyed. The stage is set, other than my fanny finding a comfortable spot in a climber. To paraphrase a summary up to now, I’m missing fall. So, I was looking for an avenue to take it all in even if it isn’t from a hickory limb, at least for now. I found solace, at least in part, when I made a recent trip to the grocer. I will explain.
The first item I saw when the opening sliding doors welcomed me were stacks of jugs of apple cider. The pungent aroma filled the produce section, and whether this was a marketing tool, or just by chance through a couple of leaking jugs, it worked. The first item into my basket was the unfiltered, unsweetened, non-alcoholic beverage made from the core, trimmings, and the apple itself. Apple juice differs greatly from cider in that this extraction from apples has undergone a filtration system to remove the coarse particles of pulp and sediment to produce a cleaner product and by pasteurizing, extends shelf life. The more concentrated, “fresh cider” brings to the table a more robust apple flavor that captures the experience. Apple cider is traditionally served on Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, but to embrace the fall that I have been missing, my cup “runneth” over now.
My aisle travel distance was cut short when I came to the rows and rows of fresh apples all begging to roll into my cart and go home with me. The Gala, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, and the Honeycrisp, were there for the choosing. I reached for the Honeycrisp first.
Honeycrisp is an apple cultivar developed at the University of Minnesota. This prized commodity is well known for its sweetness, firmness, and tartness, giving it top accolades for the “ideal eating apple.” The large cells that make up the pulp are responsible for the burst of juice when bitten. Part of the “fall” experience is wiping the sticky juice from one’s mouth and cheeks when partaking of this delicacy from the branch. Even more notable is the fact that in 2006, Anderson Elementary School in Bayport, Minnesota petitioned for the state legislature to make the Honeycrisp apple the state fruit. The bill passed!
I only had to reach one more bay to fill my sack with the popular Granny Smith apples. This light green, tart, delicacy originated in Australia and is named after Maria Ann Smith who first propagated the cultivar from a chance seedling in 1868. The tree is thought to be a hybrid of the European wild apple (Malus sylvestris) and the domesticated apple (Malus pumila). Though unclear as to where and how the chance seedling was discovered, literature suggests she found the sprout near a creek where she had dumped, among the ferns, French crab-apples and cores from other varieties used for cooking. Regardless of how this novel tree was established, it is well known for both its cooking attributes as well as for raw consumption. Of course, this leads to the next stage of “filling my basket.”
Those produce managers are great marketers, for low and behold, stacked neatly in front of the Granny Smith’s were bags and bags of sweet caramel pieces and containers full of soft, molten caramel. I am quite sure most of you have dipped the tart pieces of fruit into the soft caramel to full capture the moment of a true fall treat. I know of no other introduction to fall and Halloween as this combination and maybe even more so when the apple is impaled upon a wooden stick and then dipped and allowed to harden. Are your salivary glands working overtime now? Do you have the wax paper ready? Have you started the process of making caramel apples for you friends and families?
I would wager after reading this, and hopefully many of you have, there will be a mad rush to grocers and fruit stands to gather what is needed to create a true fall atmosphere in your kitchens. The process is simple, and this a wonderful venue to share with children in your neighborhood. What an opportunity to have a fall party creating delicacies so appropriate for this time of year.
Other items of interest that caught my eye were the chestnuts, filberts, and walnuts that are beginning to find their place in the “festive” section. I noticed the first pomegranates of the season as well. The seeds from this juicy pome are as traditional to fall as Halloween is. The small, red seeds were not only a favorite of mine as a young boy, but our family chipmunk “Chippy,” enjoyed them as much as we did. I remember him packing his little cheeks full of the morsels and then empty them into his cache. He would always come right back, taking from your hand, any other treats we had for the offering. He was a funny little guy.
We have concentrated this article to some of the more natural treats for fall, other than the sugar-loaded caramels we talked about. Believe me though, there are a multitude of other surprises that will help fall, feel more like fall. Don’t forget about roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin spiced lattes, and pumpkin bread. Referring back to the juicy fruits from the tips of limbs, think about spiced apple cake, and candy apples too. Now is the time to decorate your homes for fall, but don’t neglect the kitchens either. A few more ideas include, but are not limited to, butterscotch haystacks, caramel popcorn balls, and candy corn rice-krispie treats. Keep in mind, the sky is the limit for coming up with ideas.
I hope you don’t interpret this article as a way for me to convey my frustrations as “sour apples” for my lack of opportunity to take my bow for a walk and pursue my obsession. Contrary to what many may think, the kitchen and the woods, go hand in hand this time of year. My bow is tuned, my arrows are in my quiver and I am just looking for the opportunity to climb a tree. I hope Stacey is reading this, for the apples, caramels, nuts, and ciders are abundant in the markets. I just hope she is waiting on the opportunity to light the gas and “get to cookin” for fall.
By the way, one of my best friends has missed four deer with his bow so far, so maybe the time isn’t quite right anyway. Heh, I’m sure he’ll be glad to read this. At least I didn’t mention his name, did I Bruce? Let those aromas from your kitchen filter through your neighborhoods and down the leaf covered lanes. It may surprise you who may knock on your door. Until next time enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.