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:
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.
10 green tomatoes
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or write to 2556 Summers Fork Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.