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Archive for February, 2022

Honest Apples

One of the first things I learned, when I went to visit my West Virginia Aunt Winnie, was how best to bake apples.  It wasn’t her recipe but belonged to the woman who ran the dairy farm down the river and a hayfield away.  One day when exploring the wooded paths that roughly connected the two farmsteads, I came out into a clearing, not exactly clear but covered with a tangle of blackberry canes.  The farm wife was there with her bucket, harvesting the plump juicy fruit that nearly filled it.  She said “Hi,” offered me a handful to taste, and suggested I join her in the berry patch.  I picked some but wasn’t as fast as she.  Besides I ate most of what I plucked.  “You hungry?” she queried.  I shook my head no, but she knew better.  “It’s time for lunch,” she announced, and breezed her way to a shady spot under a cottonwood tree along the riverbank.  She pulled a couple of wrapped apples from her poke and handed me one.  “Eat it,” she said.  “I never eat two anyway.”

Yet a teen with a ravenous appetite, I did as I was told.  It was still a time when portable food was wrapped in waxed paper, and as I tore it away a lovely sight was revealed.  There in my hand sat a “Golden Apple of the Sun” gleaming with succulence and dripping  a tiny bit with the buttered spicy brown sugar sweetness that packed its center.  It wasn’t naked but came dressed with a cap of crunchy graham cracker goodness that topped off the whole thing like a crispy hat.  “Yyyyyyessss,” I breathed, sinking teeth into orb.  It was my first bite of a confection that was to become the favorite of the kinder I would bear to this friendly woman’s handsome son during the years that followed.  Her name was Garnet Taylor.  She and her husband, Ray Rex, owned and operated the Taylor Family Dairy at the head of Taylor Hollow, where the only thing that passed on through was Hughes River.  It was definitely Taylor country into which I had stumbled that day.  It was a good day, and the apple was a marvel.  It soon disappeared, leaving only a smile.

Garnet explained how to create them.  “Find six well-shaped green apples.  Golden Delicious is what these are.  Granny Smith will make them a little more tart.  Crumble twelve regular graham crackers—not them-there honeyfied ones—and mix in a solid-pressed half-cup of brown sugar, two level-teaspoons of ground cinnamon, and two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.  Don’t mess it up with fake fluid from that little green bottle they label “Real-lemon.”  Then add a quarter cup of real honest-to-God butter.  If you use store-bought, that’ll be half a stick.  If you put in oleo, that’s what it’ll taste like.  Don’t ever fake a recipe.  It tells the truth just like you do when you look at me and I can see you have a good soul.  And don’t peel the apples.  They need those skins for integrity just like we all do.  That means you need to wash them good with Dawn.

“Mix up the whole mess and poke it into the apples.  You’ll fill up the holes where the cores used to be before you cut them out to make space for something better.  If there is too much, just mound little caps to cover the tops.  Then bake all six in an open pan at 375 degrees until they are just right.  Cook too long and they will get all mushy—just long enough and you can wrap them up and send them as a surprise along with the hay harvester’s lunches.”

Like almost everything Garnet ever told me, she was right. My kiddos loved this portable dessert and looked forward to it for many years added to school lunches, even after we left the farm and went to sort out the real world.  It was, like all our many remembered recipes, a piece of the old times we love to recall.  The oven summons it back with the true odors of butter, mixing it up with cinnamon being all it was ever meant to be, and it will be you making it happen once again.  

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