Would you not agree that the past two weekends have had dazzling weather? Sunny and above average temperatures-almost fooling us that summer could still be here. For those of us who adore fall, and mark it as our favorite season, warm days do not detour us from noticing the colors of this enchanted season. With color taking its cues from vivid orange pumpkins, sun washed green ash leaves, grape vines turning burgundy with a highlights of chili pepper orange, and the North Dakota landscape going mellow all truly full-flavored with the tones that only an autumn sun and cool evening can bring.
For me, fall truly comes when in earnest I can see the small sour-tasting apple with a rosy red skin peeking out from the thick green canvas of a crab apple tree. It is not every fall that we are blessed with such a dash of style.
For several years an incredible tree in Ellery Park and I have been having a relationship. We have been seeing each other for well over 20 years, and I must admit it has been frankly fabulous.
Charles Repnow is a freelance writer who lives in Rugby. His column appears on alternate Wednesdays in The Minot Daily News.
Each spring I stop and visit her as she displays a canopy of pink blossoms -- many of which are cupping skyward soaking up the sun. For all their breathless softness, these early spring delicate blossoms have the tenacious courage to take on prairie winds and sometime frost and snow. As their frilly dresses emerge for the fashion show of spring, they are a welcome to a winter-weary park.
Lydia was introduced to this tree when she was two months old. In fact, I make a lovely photograph of her and her mother surrounded by this haven of pink.
Lydia's first-grade teacher has a brilliant way of communicating with her students and their parents. As I mentioned previously, Mrs. Schulz has a question of the day. On Sept. 26 after a weekend with very nice weather, she asked her students: "What is something that you did outside this weekend?" Lydia's reply was, "Yesterday I went to the park and picked crab apples."
We walked from our home to Ellery Park with my Aunt Violet's metal bread pan in hand and filled it to the brim with cheerful, sun-kissed crab apples. Natur-ally, Lydia had to eat a few. As the hard white flesh was revealed, she said "Oh, these are tasty."
Making crab apple pickles is a trip down memory lane. We made them at home and they were for special occasions. They are so attractive in the canning jars. Just for fun, I have left a few on the kitchen counter for daily admiring until they settle into the fruit room.
Many of you know that pickled crab apples make a delicious accompaniment to pork, poultry and many other meals. It is, however, that gathering and refining of the crab apples that makes the journey so enjoyable. Are they necessary? Well, in my book they are as important as having cedar shoe stretchers in your shoes!
Since apples are in season, I share with you two fine recipes to enjoy.
Cranberry Apple Snow
This is an attractive, and oh-so-elegant when served in large wine glasses or stemmed sherbets. It can also be served in a large bowl and is especially nice-looking in clear glass one. The display of complementary colors, red and green, is inviting and striking. The combination of apples and cranberries goes well beyond the calling of fall. Take note here is a perfect delegate for the Christmas table.
2 cups chopped raw cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups miniature marshmallows, optional
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 cups diced, unpeeled firm apples
1/2 cup seedless green grapes
1/2 cup broken walnuts or pecans
1 cup heavy cream
1 lime, thinly sliced
Combine cranberries, sugar, marshmallows, and lime juice cover, and chill overnight. Add apples, grapes, and nuts several hours before serving. Whip cream and fold into fruit. Chill. Garnish with slices of lime.
Pickled Crab Apples
The apples you select should be sweet and firm. Do not remove the stems. This recipe contains mace which is a spice made from the skin which covers nutmeg seeds. The flavor is similar to that of nutmeg, with a hint of pepper. It has a more subtle note which can be overwhelming with heavy handed cooks and can become awfully bitter when overcooked.
1 quart of vinegar
3 cups water
4 cups sugar
2 whole cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon of cloves
1 teaspoon of allspice
1 teaspoon of mace
Select firm crab apples, uniform in size, about 4 pounds. Make spiced syrup by heating together vinegar, water and sugar. Bring this to a boil and let cool. Add crab apples, spices and heat slowly, being careful not to burst the fruit. Let stand in syrup overnight. I prefer to add the spices which have been secured in cheesecloth not at the beginning. Some spices can lose their flavor when over-boiled and become bitter this is especially true of mace. Next morning remove spice bag and pack apples without reheating into sterilized jars, and fill to within 1/2 inch of top of jar with syrup. Place on canning lid and band. Process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes.