Having thoroughly given up on summer, this week found me ready and willing to embrace fall. My animal body aches for countryside at seasonal turnings, and more than once recently I have felt a sigh welling up when I realize that I have to get in my car and drive over the Bay Bridge if I want to find acorns. I long for golden dried grasses and crunchy leaves, a refreshing nip in the dry air at night and perhaps my garden as witness as I admire pumpkins and dried corn stalks.
But let’s get real. I know it’s fall because of different markers. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is next weekend (hooray!), my favorite corner store has mini sugar pumpkins, I am excitedly anticipating setting up the Dia de los Muertos altar…and the apple trees all over the city are ready and waiting!
So on the equinox, Fern and I grabbed the fruit picker and a cloth sack, and visited the trees in the garden next door, as well as a few others in the neighborhood. Take a look around your own locale…I bet you can find at least one tree! But first, a word about wild, foraged, non-commercial apples.
You may need to take a moment to get over the concept of this as ideal:
and maybe get more down with this:
Once upon a time, before the advent of chemical warfare and spraying our food with poison, our ancestors had lower expectations (and heartier constitutions) when it came to produce. Blemishes and imperfections are normal when it comes to…well, to many things! But particularly when it comes to organic food. A little wormhole, spiderweb or soft spot where a bird took a bite does not mean you have a bad apple! Just cut that part out and eat around it. Put the icky part back on the ground or in your compost. You won’t catch cooties, I promise.
And so, here is the core of our fruitful adventure (oh the hilarity).
Fern’s Apple Pie Celebration
5-6 cups apples, thinly sliced (leave the peel on, leave the core out)
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Cardamom
1/4 tsp Powdered Ginger
(spice amounts are guesstimates…I always spice by pinch and sniff)
1 TB Cornstarch
2/3-3/4 c Brown Sugar
1 1/2 C Unbleached Pastry Flour
1/2 C Earth Balance Margarine
3 TB (plus or minus) of cold water
To make enough crust for a bottom and top, double the recipe above. In a large bowl, add the flour and salt and cut in the margarine. Using a pastry cutter, mash up the margarine until it is well combined with the flour and the margarine pieces are quite small. Sprinkle the water, and stir with a wooden spoon, until a ball of dough is formed. The amount of water will vary depending on the weather (humidity) the type of flour, etc.) Shape the dough into a ball without kneading it, and either refrigerate, or roll out right away. Place into a well greased pie pan.
In another bowl, place the cut apples. Stir in all other ingredients, making sure the apples are well coated. But don’t drive yourself crazy…as they cook, the spices will mingle together and do their little alchemical pie thing. Dump the apples into the pie pan.
If using, place the top crust, seal the edges and prick in several places with a fork. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, and then turn down to 350 and bake for another 35, or until the crust is golden brown.
Apple Cider Vinegar
(disclaimer: This is the technique I am using, but I do not have vinegar yet, because it takes a few weeks.)
Keep all your apple cores, peels etc in a bowl and let them sit out until they are brown and a little shriveled and totally questionable looking. Place in a jar and pour in filtered water to cover. Cover the top of the jar with cheesecloth and let sit in a warm, dark place.
The contents will start to thicken and a “greyish scum” will start to form on top. (um….EW….why am I making this again? Oh yeah, because apple cider vinegar is *the best* vinegar to use…in food, medicinally and even on your face to balance ph). Once this happens, you’ve got about 4 weeks to go. It is up to you how “vinegary” you want it, and you can taste test and leave longer if need be. When it is done, you can strain it if you want to, or just fish out the scraps and leave “the mother” (e.g. the primary fermented blob of slime that forms) in the vinegar. It’s ok! It’s raw! It’s like kombucha! Ok! So I think it’s actually really gross too, but we use ACV all the time, so here we go!
Happy Harvest to you all. Did you check out the moon this week? Each night it has arisen over the city, giant and golden, playing with the buildings and treetops.