Onward, Then, Into the Swirling Leaves
Made some Apple Brown Betty Saturday and it was not bad. Just the thing for a weekend of switching gears as Summer rose from her chair by the beach and gathered her things. Fall took a walk through town Saturday and the winds blew and the maple leaves began their crimson turn and the air smelled of drying oak and corn husks and the cinnamon bread baking in the ovens all day over at the café. I have made it clear over the years that Autumn is my favorite season, though THAT there are seasons here is the thing. I can’t imagine living in a climate that doesn’t include turning leaves and snowfall and spring flowers and summer waves. That said, now through February is prime time far as I’m concerned.
Went to an orchard Saturday on its opening day, and Mr. S and I tasted some Zestars and a new apple from the Netherlands whose name I can’t recall but started with an “E”, and saw my cookbook there on the shelf (always a bit of a rush) and bought some apple brats and petted a goat and a rabbit and marveled at the chickens and ate perhaps the best homemade apple turnover I’ve ever tasted. It was a purely beautiful day, and remained that way throughout the conversation I had with a man who was clearly grieving the passing of summer. “It’s not that I don’t like fall,” he said. “It’s what comes after that gets me down.”
I don’t blame him. Winter has its ominous ways, but it has its redemptions, too. Fires in the fireplace, hot casseroles full up with bubbling cheese and sausage, gatherings around the piano as the snow falls thick in the night, Christmas caroling, sledding parties, the challenges of getting together and the joy when it happens. Candle light. Mugs full of steaming coffee, chocolate, nutmegged cream. Without winter, how would we know the full meaning of “comfort”? It’s the closest some of us may come to understanding the word “survival.” And I like that.
If you have lived here more than a few years, you know there is nothing to dread. You know you have it in you to move through it and beyond, and you have found ways to embrace or simply make do on the darkest, coldest days of the year. You have learned to seek light or create it, to heat up the house by baking bread, to snuggle into someone you love when the chill winds blow.
Onward, then, into the swirling leaves. Toward the moonlight nights of October, and November’s chill and the great debate of When To Turn On The Furnace. On toward the snowplowed piles along the streets and the down jackets and wool scarves and snow boots. Toward that week or two in January when the cold finds our bones and we think about speaking the word “unbearable.” But we don’t. And it’s not. Mostly because we know what’s ahead. Funny how that works. Always something ahead to keep us movin’ forward. Anniversaries. Grandchildren. Trips to Italy or Ireland or Cairo. A new job. Moving to a new home. Seeing someone you haven’t seen in years. And yes, another summer.
In the meantime, let’s go out and make this day one to remember along the way. I’ll look for you in the orchards, in the park and at the pumpkin patch. I’ll be the one sitting on the biggest pumpkin, eating apples and waiting for Mr. S to find his way back to me.
I’m all about apples these past few days, and I’ve dug up a few recipes and am working on a couple new ones. This one my Aunt Wanda made for family gatherings and I tweaked it just a bit. I’m a nutmeg fan and find a sprinkle here and there is just the thing, but that’s up to you. This one’s good for breakfast or dessert or after a long walk in the cool air. I recommend you have some vanilla ice cream on hand. From now ‘til Thanksgiving, at least.
Apple Brown Betty
4 cups soft white bread crumbs (6 slices or so of bread)
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 T cinnamon
4 large apples, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 cup apple cider
Sprinkle of nutmeg (optional)
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 2-quart casserole.
In medium bowl, stir together bread crumbs and melted butter. In separate bowl, mix brown sugar and cinnamon. Place half of the apple slices in casserole; sprinkle with half of the brown sugar mixture and half of the bread crumb mixture. Repeat layers. Pour cider over top. Add a sprinkle of nutmeg if you’re so inclined. Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is browned. Serve warm.
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