September is half over and we are well on our way to the time of the beautiful leaves. Of course, we had better enjoy them and this pleasant weather, because who knows what Mother Nature will throw at us in just a few weeks. Some folks say we will have a horrible winter and others say we will have a warm winter. I haven't seen any of my weather predictors yet the woolly worms so I don't have any idea what we have in store for us. We might as well welcome it, whatever it is, as we can't do anything about it anyway.
The fall fruits are making their appearance. They are best fresh, but frozen or canned still taste pretty good when the snow flies. After the power shortages this past year, many folks are getting out those old canning jars and using them instead of everything going into the freezer. Either one is a good way to preserve the fruits or vegetables that are in season now.
Most of my young years were spent on the farm my Semon grandparents had back of Stanleyville, not far from Marietta. They had about any kind of fruit tree that would grow in this area. Several kinds of apples, peaches, pears and plums were all enjoyed fresh and preserved. With them being German, nothing was ever wasted. It was sold (to Grandma's Friday customers), canned, made into jams and jellies or turned into juice or wine. Of course, everyone knows that a little bruise turned brown on apples doesn't hurt cider at all. One barrel of cider was always touched up to make the favorite beverage for the winter neighborhood penuche games. Even the peach skins and seeds were used to make brandy no waste of anything.
When I visit the Amish farms north of us, I am reminded of the farming of my grandparents. We used horses, cut the corn with a corn knife, and put the cut wheat into sheaves. Corn was gathered into teepee-like shocks in the field, and then taken into the barn to be shucked when the busy harvest season was over. I have fond memories of going with Grandpa to the barn in the evening, a lantern for light, and helping shuck those corn ears.
The wheat waited for the "thrasher" to come around and separate the wheat and straw. That was a neighborhood happening. The machine would go from farm to farm with all the neighbors following it to thrash the wheat for each other. The dinners the housewives would provide for the men were better than any restaurant could offer. Of course, each farm wife tried to outdo all the others with variety and volume. Whoever made the best pie got the bragging rights for the season. That cost one old bachelor some money. He bragged about the pie at one farm and told the rather robust farmwife that he would buy her material for an apron if she would just make him a pie. He about had heart failure when he learned that it took four yards for an apron for her. The women did help each other with the dinners, but the desserts were usually already made so that"secret" ingredients wouldn't be discovered.
Grandma's food cellar was larger than some of the houses I have lived in. Of course, no freezer as we didn't have electricity. Fruits, vegetables and meat were canned for the most part. Large ten- and twenty-gallon stone jars held kraut, stuffed peppers, sausages packed in lard, pickles, etc. One twenty-gallon one was used to keep a batch of beer going.
We were poor by today's standard, but we kids never knew it. We lived in a big farmhouse, helped cut wood for the furnace, had anything in the world we could think of to eat, and even had nice material from the feed sacks for clothing. If I was promised a new dress, I got to pick out the feed sacks when I went to town with Grandma on her Friday route and the store would deliver it the next week. (I was in the back doors of some of the most prominent families in Marietta on those Friday Trips.) I used feed sack material for some of my first 4-H projects, and got A's on all of them. Fresh eggs, milk, cheese, meat, veggies and fruits, all organic and delicious.
Life was surely more peaceful then, and no one noticed how hard we all worked. It was family working together and having a wonderful life. Kids today really get cheated by not being able to enjoy that sort of life growing up.
Visit a local orchard to u-pick some apples, the farmers' market for fresh food, and take your little ones to Amish country some day. Enjoy this wonderful season of fall. Preserve some of fall's fruits some of our family recipes are in today.
One-half cup brown sugar
One-teaspoon whole allspice
One-teaspoon whole cloves
One-fourth teaspoon salt
One (3-inch) cinnamon stick
Two quarts apple cider
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring slowly to a boil. Cover and simmer twenty minutes. Strain before serving.
CROCKPOT APPLE BUTTER
Five pounds cooking apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
One-half cup apple juice or fresh cider
Two teaspoons ground cinnamon
One-half teaspoon ground cloves
One-half teaspoon ground allspice
Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker, Cover and cook on low for eight to 10 hours, or until the apples are very tender. Mash apples with a potato masher or use a food processor or, best of all, use a handheld immersible blender. Return to crockpot if using a potato masher or food processor and cook, uncovered, on low, for two more hours or until mixture is very think. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking. Pour immediately into hot, sterilized jars and seal. This makes about three pints.
Use this method to make applesauce, too, and cook until you like the consistency. This can be frozen or canned. Use this method for any fruit butter you make.
Two or three cooking apples such as Golden Delicious, cored and sliced
One to two tablespoons butter
Two to three teaspoons granulated or brown sugar
One-half teaspoon cinnamon
Melt butter in heavy skillet. Add apples, then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until apple are lightly browned and just tender.
MOM'S APPLE DUMPLINGS
(As written in her cookbook.)
Dough Two cups flour
One-and-one-half teaspoons baking powder
Three tablespoons margarine about
Enough milk to make a nice dough one you can handle and roll out
Sliced apples peeled and cored first
Syrup One and one-half cups brown sugar
One-half cup white sugar
One stick margarine (or butter)
Two cups water
Make dough and roll out. Cut into six-inch squares. Put sliced apples on dough square and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bring dough together at top and squeeze to form dumpling. Place in baking pan. Combine syrup ingredients and bring to a boil. Pour over dumplings and bake in preheated 325-degree oven for 90 minutes.
NOTE: The dough is like a biscuit dough. The amount of sliced apples depends on the size of the dough squares. They don't have to be exactly six inches. The apples can be peeled and cored, sprinkled with cinnamon, and then placed whole on the dough, too. Some folks like the cored-out center filled with raisins. If the apples are on the sour side, I add more sugar on the apples, too.
Four tablespoons molasses
Four tablespoons sweet milk
One-half teaspoon soda
Sift: One-half teaspoon ginger
One-teaspoon baking powder
One-half teaspoon nutmeg
One-cup (or more) flour
Add to liquid mixture.
Have fruit mixture boiling (peaches or pears) and drop dumpling mixture by spoonfuls into fruit mixture. Cover (don't peek.) and cook for 15 minutes.
Fruit mixture: Add peaches or pears to a simple syrup, usually one cup sugar to one cup water, and bring to boiling. Boil for a few minutes before adding dumplings so fruit is cooked when dumplings are done. For heavier syrup, use two cups sugar to one-cup water.
Patty Christopher is a longtime columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel.