Apples on my mind

Susan Manzke

The season for picking apples is soon over, yet they are still on my mind. Ever since spring, apples have made us wonder and worry.

Columnist Susan Manzke's husband, Bob, is a big help in the kitchen when it's time to make yummy apple treats.

Just as our few trees were blooming last spring, a change in the weather brought frost to our backyard. I had hoped that the breezy weather that came with the cold would keep the tender flowers safe. We had to wait weeks for the final outcome.

Sadly, the frost had taken out most of our apples (and 90% of our pears), leaving some on the east side of the trees. Later, we found that the apples that had survived the cold weren’t much to brag about. In fact, they weren’t worth picking.

The trouble with apples is if you don’t pick them they fall to the ground. This perturbs my husband as he then can’t mow under the trees. So even though the fruit wasn’t tasty, Bob picks up the fallen. He then can mow without trouble.

The apples weren’t worth the work to chisel out any usable apple, even for apple sauce. Bob didn’t want the neighborhood wasps to gather in our yard, so he took daily trips down the farm lane and disposed of the fallen fruit far from the house — this brought us the added benefit of finding wildlife munching.

We finally relented and went to an apple orchard and bought apples from a grower — a discussion there also told us that this year’s weather caused a harvest below normal.

I made a no crust apple crisp. It was yummy. Someday I may learn to make good pie dough and actually make a two-crust pie. Right now I’m satisfied with this creation. No real measuring. Just enough apples, cinnamon, sugar to make a delicious filling. To give it flair, I included sweetened dried cranberries. The crisp topping was a bit of butter, oatmeal, flour, and sugar — measuring would benefit me so when it comes out perfect I could recreate it, but that’s not the way I work.

Bob readies apple slices for the dehydrator.

Bob also had an apple project of his own. He unpacked our two dehydrators and set to work washing and slicing apples for drying.

My husband is not a cook. That’s my job. Bob’s biggest help in the kitchen is when he works at drying apples. It takes time to tend to the apples and place them on the racks. What is best is that he usually doesn’t slice any of his fingers. I can’t get past the first couple apples without drawing blood.

Our family appreciates gifts of dried apples, especially our grandchildren. We’ve gotten requests for more when their stocks have run low. Harrison has even called us, which is pretty good as he’s only three — okay, he gets help from his parents when using the phone, but he knows what he wants when he calls.

I really appreciate Bob’s help with the apples. He even slices some so I can cook up apple sauce and pie filling. Bob likes eating apples any way they come to our table. That may be why he’s so helpful.

Next, we’ll both attack making pies. Actually, Bob has made pie crusts in the past that were pretty good, but no one has made pies as good as our mothers did. We’ll need more practice to compete with the fruit of their kitchens.

We have our fingers crossed that next spring and summer will be good to our apple trees. If not, we’ll be off to harvest from other orchards again. But that is far in the future. For today, I have to stir a pot of apple sauce before it burns. I wouldn’t want to waste any of this year’s precious apples.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;