'Tis the Season

We had our first frost of the season last week.

I missed it.

I was tucked away in bed as it came and went, but the kind man at the apple orchard on Thursday told me that it indeed had come.

That's why, he said, the pick-your-own season is over. They have to get the remaining apples off the trees fast once the first frost comes, or the apples will be ruined.

And that would be a shame.

My niece Mica and I were a little disappointed to learn that we couldn't pick apples on Thursday. We're lucky live close enough to the beautiful Solebury Orchards that we make regular trips there for our apples, and when we have the time, we like to pick them ourselves.

Picking season may be over, but, thankfully, apple season is not. Solebury's late-ripening apples, which are kept cold storage, will be available in their market into the winter. So, though we couldn't pick them ourselves, we still walked away with a half-peck of Keepsakes on Thursday. 


While nothing tops an apple just off the tree, apples from a bona fide farmer's market are the next-best thing. They're crispier, juicer, and more flavorful than the supermarket variety. I don't know why, but they are. Get to your local farmer's market, and take a bite--you'll see what I mean.

Then, get baking. 

Jewish Apple Cake

I made this in October, as a birthday cake for my sister. It was hit with everyone but the kids. If they'd tried it, they may have liked it, but the idea of apples in cake was too much for them. That's ok--more for us. I served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and an apple cider reduction that was so easy to make. It's a very moist cake. 

Make this, or your favorite apple recipe, with farmer's market or supermarket apples--whatever you can get your hands on. It's autumn--and apple season--after all!

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup apple sauce (or cooking oil)
4 eggs
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup orange juice
5-6 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
6 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1-2 teaspoons nutmeg

For the apples: Use a few different kinds, if possible. The various flavors will combine in the batter to produce a gloriously complex apple flavor. I recommend this with any baking or cooking you do with apples, and especially when making apple sauce. In this cake, I used Braeburn, Keepsake and Sundance. 

Beat eggs, baking powder, vanilla, salt, and orange juice. Mix in another bowl the flour, sugar and oil. Add to egg mixture and combine. Note: This is different than most cake recipes in which you cream together the butter, sugar, and eggs.

Mix the cinnamon, nutmeg and 6 tablespoons of sugar with the sliced apples and mix well.

In a greased tube or bundt pan, pour 1/3 of the batter, then 1/2 the apples, then another 1/3 of batter, then the rest of the apples, then the remainder of the batter. 

Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 1/2 hours or until tester or knife comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan to cool on wire rack. I recommend that you run a knife along the side of the pan to loosen the cake before turning the pan onto the rack. 

Apple Cider Reduction

Apple cider
a pat of butter (1-2 tablespoons)

A reduction is basically a liquid that has been cooked down to make a sauce. The effect is a thicker and more intense version of the original. 

To make an apple cider reduction, cook the apple cider down to your desired thickness by boiling the cider and stirring occasionally. At the end, whisk in a pat of butter to thicken it a little more and to further enrich the flavor of the reduction. 

How much cider you start with and how long you boil it depends on how much you need and how thick you want it to be. I started with 5 cups of cider and cooked them down to 1 cup. 1 cup was plenty to serve as a sauce for the cake. I could have used fewer than 5 at the start, but then my sauce would have been less sweet at the end. You can play around with it and see what works for you. You really can't mess it up.

Note: If you make the reduction to serve with this cake, remember that it's a sauce, not a glaze. Don't pour it over the cake until the cake is sliced and plated. 


Treat, Of Course

When I was growing up, Trick-or-Treating wasn't a big part of our family culture.

We didn't boycott Halloween, or anything like that. We enjoyed other activities related to the day, such as carving pumpkins, hay rides and dressing up in costumes, but going door-to-door just wasn't something we did.

You see, we lived on a busy highway, so, instead of driving us to the nearest neighborhood to knock on doors, my parents loaded us into the car and took us around to our grandparents' and our great-aunts' and uncles' houses, where we posed for many photos and helped ourselves to dishes candy corn, apples and other treats.

Still vivid in my memory is the eerie feeling of sitting on the sofa at Uncle Sam's and Aunt June's, knowing that the door at the end of the hall opened into the funeral parlor they ran.

From there, we would drive nearly 20 minutes to Aunt Elizabeth's and Uncle Georges's. Through the woods and along the gravel road, which today remains one of the last unpaved roads in Bucks County, my dad told us stories of the Boogie Man. My sister would laugh and tickle the back of my neck at just the right moment, while I cringed and looked over my shoulder constantly.

When we arrived at their old mill, we were greeted by the barking of what I remember to be at least fourteen jack russel terriers, though there probably weren't more than five. The lights were always dim inside the mill house, but it was warm too, and we were greeted with mugs of apple cider and frisky pups leaping up to lick our faces. It was always our last stop, and I always left with my bag heavy with treats and my fists full of quarters. At least, that's how I remember it.

I got older, and we moved from that busy street to a neighborhood of seven houses. It was too small to draw any trick-or-treaters, and the few kids who lived on that little road didn't waste their time on it. Instead, they trudged up the hill to a much larger neighborhood and made a killing there. I don't recall ever going with them. I do remember Halloween roller-skating and bowling with family and church groups instead, and I think I went trick-or-treating once or twice with friends from school. It was pretty nice to go home with a bag-full of candy, but I was freezing the whole time, and it seemed a little over-rated to me.

Even so, I don't think I'm a Halloween grinch; trick-or-treating just wasn't a big part of my childhood, and when it comes around each year, I don't give it much thought. Since Graeme is from Australia, where Halloween is not a big deal, or any deal at all really, on Sunday afternoon, when we both realized it was October 31, we scrambled to figure out what to do.

Should we buy candy, or should we escape?

We called our friends with whom we went to the movies on October 31, 2009, but they didn't pick up the phone. Hm. 

I insisted that no one but family would be knocking on our door; only one child lives in our apartment building, and he's under the age of five. Nonetheless, Graeme went out and bought two small bags. Meanwhile, I got busy making some long-over-due gingersnap cookies. They're a fall favorite, and I hadn't made any yet this year. 

At 8:30, we got our first and only trick-or-treaters: our niece and nephew, with my sister and brother-in-law. After a chilly evening of trick-or-treating, they enjoyed their homemade treat, and they walked away with a big stack. I'm still working on the York Peppermint Patties.

Adapted from AllRecipes.com

1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/3 cup white sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a large bowl, mix together brown sugar, oil, molasses and egg. 

In a smaller bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt, cloves, cinnamon and ginger. Then, stir into the molasses mixture.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls. Dip one side in the sugar, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet with the sugar side up.

Bake for 8 minutes.