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Finishing the harvest and ushering in fall

The autumn season officially came in yesterday, shrouded by fog last night, but sparkling with sunshine this morning. There is a cool fall note in the wayward wind -- a portent of colder weather to come. There is a golden sheen to the hills, as the leaves begin to give up their summer coat of green in exchange for the multi-colors of fall. Summer has fled, and left our world in the grip of the changing seasons. It is the most delightful time to live in these hills and partake of the beauty of the mountains.

It is time to harvest the fall apples, which fall in fragrant heaps beneath the trees. It is a race to beat the deer in order to gather the ripe fruit before they can eat them. Apples are such a versatile fruit, full of vitamins and also delicious. Apple pie comes to mind immediately, with fried apple pies coming in second. One time I was showing my daughter-in-law Peggy how to make fried apple pies, and had placed the raw pie on a plastic saucer prior to sliding it in the skillet of hot oil.

When I started to slide the pie in the skillet, I accidentally slid the saucer in with it. It was a lesson she never forgot. She loves to tell people how to make fried apple pies, beginning with, "First you slide a plastic saucer in a skillet of hot oil ... I've never lived that down.

Baked apple dumplings are a favorite of ours, and fresh apple cake is a fall staple. It's also apple butter making time, and many country folks make a party out of it. The apples are peeled and prepared the day before, and the big copper kettle is cleaned and ready the next morning. (I read where the kettle can be cleaned with some of the apple parings and cider.) It takes an early start, lots of firewood, and plenty of willing workers. It's an all day job, as it has to be stirred constantly to keep from scorching.

After it is done, it is canned and shared among the workers. We never made apple butter this way, although it sounds like a lot of fun. Mom had an oblong heavy roaster that she used in the oven to make apple butter. She covered it with aluminum foil and stirred it every twenty minutes or so. As it cooked down, she would add more cooked apples. When it was brown and thick, she would add the cinnamon oil or oil of cloves. It was an all-day, tiring job.

It is so much easier now. I made apple butter last week by putting the prepared apple sauce (which I had made earlier) in my slow cooker with sugar and setting it on low and leaving it all night. While I slept, the apple butter simmered and turned a lovely brown color. The next morning all I had to do was add the oil of cinnamon and can it in pint jars.

A sketch of song that Daddy used to sing kept flitting through my mind and I found it online. It is a folk song written by Cal Stewart in 1900, and it goes like this:

TICKLISH REUBEN

Oh, my name is Ticklish Reuben

From way down in old Vermont

And everything seems ticklish to me

I've been tickled by a feather

I've been tickled by a wasp

I've been tickled by a yellow bumblebee.

 

I've always got a tickled sort of way about my clothes

It really doesn't matter where I be.

I am tickled in the morning and I'm tickled in the night

Something's always sure to tickle me.

 

Once I put some pepper into Daddy's snuff box

And the way he acted was a sight to see

Well he coughed and he sneezed till I thought he'd have a fit

Then he took me out to tickle me.

 

I was always getting tickled by someone about the house

So why they take to ticklin' I could never see

And the apple butter paddle is all in splinters now

Daddy wore it out a-ticklin' me.

---

The harvest moon has come and gone, and harvest time is almost over. With no frost yet, we still have a few late tomatoes in the garden and cucumbers that may get big enough to gather. If you are fortunate enough to have some late vegetables, you may be interested in this relish recipe. It was sent by Kathy Grimm, of Henderson, who says that it was her grandmother's recipe, and handed down to her by her late Aunt Barb. It sounds good.

CHRISTMAS RELISH

10 green tomatoes

10 onions

1 bunch celery

1 bunch carrots

9 red sweet peppers

9 green sweet peppers

6 cups sugar

3 cups vinegar

1 tablespoon celery seed

1 tablespoon white mustard seed

Grind vegetables, sprinkle with 1/2 cup of salt. Let stand one hour. Bring vinegar and sugar to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Drain vegetables and add to vinegar and sugar. Cook 15 minutes, put in pint jars and seal.

Kathy adds that this is delicious in pinto beans. Sounds like a winter-time meal to me.

---

My sister Jeannie was visiting in the Helvetia country recently, and heard this poem that was written by Marcy Fincham in honor of her late sister, Pam Nitz, who was buried the day before. It touched my heart, and I want to share it.

MY ANGEL PAM

I heard her laughter

So loud and clear

We giggled and ran

As the gate drew near.

She looked back at me

Her face aglow

"I'm going to beat you there

This time I know!"

The summer breeze blowing in her hair

I picked up the pace

To race her there.

Sunshine and flowers

Along the path

Our smiling faces

As we did laugh.

I'd never been the one trailing behind

I'd won this race a dozen times.

Always before when we'd reach the gate

To wait on our dad and anticipate,

For we knew that Dad had saved us our treat,

When after his day of work, at the gate we'd meet.

The many times, just as before,

Our Mom would watch

From the kitchen door.

But this time was different

She was winning this race,

The evidence was there

On her smiling face.

"Hurry," she yelled, "and follow me"

Not far in the distance

The gate we could see.

The closer we drew

Her laughter filled the air,

And this time I saw both

Mom and Dad standing there.

Reaching out their arms

They pulled her close

And I felt the presence

Of the Holy Ghost.

The reward is all hers

This time around

And now I know in my heart

I can't let her down.

For the next time I arrive

At this gate to greet

It will be My Angel Pam

Whom I know I will meet. Contact Alyce Faye Bragg at alycefaye@citlink.net or write to 2556 Summers Fork Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.


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