By Gini Rainey
It’s difficult for me to believe that this is the 2nd day of October. You know, that time of year when the days are getting shorter, the sun slants in a direction that changes the way things look, the leaves start changing colors, and the temperatures are cooler. Wait, did I just say the temperatures are cooler? Somebody needs to let Mother Nature in on that secret, because here in the south, we are still not feeling much cooler.
A sure sign that fall was right around the corner when our kids were in grade school was when the jonathon apples hit the stores. A friend of mine and I would keep a watchful eye out, and when we spotted them, we would call each other with the news, and off we would go to buy a bag of those yummy, tart little apples. I still love them, but it seems like now we have more apples to pick from and that makes the process really difficult. I was at the store the other day and there were apples all over the place.
I remember growing up in Moorhead how difficult it was to get good produce, especially fruit, in the winter. Around
Christmas time, my dad would buy 2 wooden boxes of Snoboy apples. One of the boxes would go into our basement for us to eat and cook with during the winter. We would take the other box and deliver it to the orphanage in Fargo so the kids that lived there could enjoy some fresh fruit, too. Of course, dad used it as an opportunity to explain to me just how fortunate I was to have parents, a warm home, and plenty of good food to eat. A lesson not lost on this kid. I came across the end of one of those wooden boxes, complete with the snow man logo, a few years ago in an antique store, and I just had to buy it because it reminded me of my dad and to be kind and generous to others.
And, speaking of plenty of food, I picked up a cookbook (surprised?) a couple of weeks ago, “Cooking from The Cupboard: Meals in Minutes from Your Pantry” by Jeanne Jones. Published by Rodale Inc. in 2004, this nifty cookbook not only has some great recipes on its 338 pages, but also is filled with some pretty good ideas of what a well-stocked pantry should contain, thus helping to eliminate a lot of unnecessary trips to the grocery store when preparing meals. There is also a list of refrigerator basics, along with menu ideas and lots of other good information.
Some of the recipes combine ingredients together that I don’t believe I’ve seen before, such as a can of condensed green pea
soup with a can of chicken stock and sherry extract. Here’s another one: frozen chopped onions, curry powder, chicken broth, peanut butter, and evaporated milk; or a sweet potato dip that’s made from sweet potatoes (duh!), marjoram, nutmeg, pepper, red-pepper flakes, and olive oil. I don’t know that I would jump on that one. There is one for Cherry Clafouti, an easy and inexpensive peasant dessert from France that is made from evaporated milk, flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, frozen pitted Bing cherries and vanilla ice cream that sounds absolutely delicious. Her recipe for Chicken Enchilada Casserole sounds good, but I might have to avoid even thinking about making the Tuna Tamale Pie. Something is just not right-sounding about that one.
But, back to apples. Here’s a couple of great ideas for those tart, fall apples that I like to do. If you like sauerkraut and brats, try draining and rinsing a can of sauerkraut in water, and then add a couple of grated apples and a tablespoon or so of sugar (depending on your taste) to it. Put in a casserole, top with some brats, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 350°, or until nice and bubbly and hot. Or, using your favorite pancake recipe, grate a couple of apples and mix into the batter. If you like, you can a sprinkle of cinnamon, and then bake on a griddle as usual.
We had a couple of apple trees in our yard when I was little, and my mom would make apple butter from time to time using the apples. That was some mighty good eating when spread on a piece of warm buttered toast. This cookbook has a recipe for apple butter that calls for dried apples, but don’t hesitate to use fresh if you would like. In a large saucepan, mix 2 cups of dried apple slices, 2 cups unsweetened apple juice, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground allspice, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves. Bring to a boil over medium heat, cover and reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Cool to room temperature and spoon into a container with a tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator. This recipe will make 2 cups of some mighty good eating – and what could be more easy? Maybe Mother Nature hasn’t hit the chill button yet because the best apples haven’t soaked up enough sunshine!