Welcome to another Southern Sunday by Alle Wells – if like me, you are enjoying Alle’s stories of Southern Living, why not stop over at new website and say hi – here is her website http://allewells.com/ You can also find Alle on Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter. Follow her everywhere and you’re sure to delight in looking at all things Southern through her eyes. Today Alle is drying apples…so read on
When I think of apples, I’m transported to simpler times in life that comfort me. A big, red apple reminds me new beginnings like the alphabet chart on the very first day of school. A is for Apple. Apples represent good health. Recent studies have shown that an apple a day may actually contribute to lifelong digestive health. Apples also remind me of the change in seasons and candy apples at the county fair. Sometimes the whiff of cooked apples takes me back home. When my children were small, I cooked according to the seasons and apple treats were a staple in the house this time of year. One year, I baked an apple pie just before a September storm blew in. We didn’t have electricity that night so we ate the pie for dinner by candlelight. My daughter remembers that apple pie as the best pie I ever made. Sometimes the simplest times evoke the sweetest memories.
Fried apple pies were an important part of family history in the North Carolina Central Piedmont region where many mill workers’ children grew up. Whenever someone mentions the old days, a sweet memory of fried apple pies works its way into the conversation. In my upcoming book, Mill People, young Jesse spends a day with her Mamaw. During their visit, they make fried apple pies. Here is a little preview of Mill People and Jesse’s visit with Mamaw:
I pull one from the crock and ask, “How do you do this? I mean, make apples look like this.”
She shakes the crock and the apple slices fall into her favorite mixing bowl, the one with the chipped edge. “Well, I use the little yellow apples that grow on the tree in the backyard. They come ready around late September.”
Mamaw points out the hand-crank apple peeler mounted on the Hoosier cabinet. “I peel them on that handy-dandy peeler and slice them real thin. Then I string them up with a good piece of string, like the kind that comes from the mill, and hang them next to the woodstove. When they feel soft and dry, I put them in this old crock until I’m ready to use them.”
That’s the way Jesse’s grandmother dries apples. I dry them modern way, although I admit that Mamaw’s way seems easier and more fun. I chose Gala apples, similar to the little yellow ones that grow in Mamaw’s backyard. I peeled mine by hand although it would be easier to use one of those handy-dandy, antique apple peelers. I use a mandolin to slice the apples three-eighths of an inch because I’m too technical to decipher what “real thin” means. The prepared slices float in a bowl of water [with?] a little citric acid so they won’t turn brown. Mamaw didn’t have to blanch her apples, but my modern recipe recommended blanching before drying. So I did, and then I sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar. Ten hours later, I had four quarts of perfect dried apples ready for a batch of Mamaw’s fried apple pies!
Thanks for joining me for another Southern Sunday. Mill People will be released later in the fall.