"say, say, oh playmate,
come out and play with me
and bring your dollies three
climb up my apple tree
slide down my rain barrel
into my cellar door
and we'll be jolly friends
forever more, 1-2-3-4"
when i was little, i was desperate for an apple tree like the one in my favorite hand clapping song. i also wanted a rain barrel, although i wasn’t really sure what that was. forty years later, i do have a great, big, sweeping apple tree in my backyard. my tree has a beautiful, twisted, architectural trunk with a hole the perfect size for hiding easter eggs, it makes lots of shade (crucial for a fair-skinned mama living in a town that bumps up against the sun,) in the winter, the way the snow lands on the branches is right out of fairy tale, it’s covered in lacy, white blossoms in the spring, and every other year or so, my tree grows apples in the late summer.
in theory, i love my apple tree. it is pretty to look at in every season. but then the apples come. the first year, i didn’t realize they were edible. i kept composting them and heading to the market to purchase fujis and granny smiths. a couple of years passed and the apples returned. that year, they dropped before i thought they were ripe. i couldn’t reach the ones that looked ready and once again they were largely wasted/composted. the deer did have a fine time, although they were never polite enough to eat the entire apple… they would enjoy a few bites and leave the rest to brown and decompose in my garden, which i found quite rude.
i vowed that when the apples came again, i would be ready for them. i bought a long-handled picker that looks like a lacrosse stick at mcguckin - putting myself in peril. mcguckin is a family owned hardware store in boulder that has been around since 1955 and is the size of a city block. i try never to go too deep in there because i worry that i won’t be able to find my way out. as a precaution, i always park by the entrance near the cash registers, next to the brewing market coffee shop. once inside, i stay in the middle aisles and look for the steaming humidifiers to find my way out. but in order to get to the apple pickers i had to journey into the depths of the store… even past the giant fishing overalls on display in the sporty section. at that point, i wasn’t even sure where the middle aisles were anymore and my heart was beating a little. i had to ask one of the old men wearing an official green apron (just like mr. hooper from sesame street) to please escort me back to the brewing market door so i could find my car again. i then returned home, tucked the apple picker safely into my shed and waited two more years for the apples.
you would think that harvesting would come naturally to me… i am from serious midwestern stock on both sides… my father is from minnesota and my mother grew up on an actual farm in atlantic, iowa. they grew corn and alfalfa and wheat i think. but it is really hard for me to figure out these apples. (my mom with her 4H cow.)
while i was away last week a jillion of them came down. they continue to fall so frequently, it almost sounds like rain. it’s confusing because they still aren’t very big and it’s only the beginning of august. i think of apples as a fall fruit. anyway, my kids and i spent two mornings picking them all up…this was disgusting work. many of them were half deer-eaten and rotting and wedged into the ground. we were tossing them into a box that arrived from chewy.com with a 30 pound bag of hank’s kibble, so it was a pretty big box. i figured the box was compostable too and we could just stuff it all in the bin in the alley. when it was full, theo and i managed to carry it all the way across the yard to the gate…and then it just broke wide open. ZILLIONS of rotten apples rolled everywhere. i let out a howl like how i imagine the guy in edvard munch’s painting sounded and then i burst into tears. (mind you, i was still wearing my pajamas because if we don’t do the yard work first thing in the morning, it gets too hot so i definitely looked a bit untethered.) sometimes all the nature outside of my house is just too overwhelming. my ruckus attracted the attention of the tree trimmers parked in the alley and praise jesus, they offered to help. i ran to get the plastic, manageably-sized halloween buckets that we should have been using all along and we were able to get every, last stinking apple into the bin, with the gracious assistance of the tree men. i then pulled the apple picker out of the shed and we collected enough fresh, unbitten, unbruised apples to make loads of august apple crisp.
* boulders - you are welcome to come by and pick apples any time! i left the picker leaning against the tree. i also left the halloween buckets out, in case you want to pick up rotten apples for the compost…
APPLE CRISP (from america’s test kitchen family cookbook)
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small slices
i am not including the nuts that america’s test kitchen has because why would you add nuts to a perfectly yummy crisp?
3 pounds of apples peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch chunks (my apples are pretty small so you will need a lot of them!)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest (i think i use a bit more)
heat the oven to 375 degrees. mix the filling ingredients in a large bowl and then spoon into a pie dish. combine the topping ingredients and then wash your hands well and squish the butter into the dry topping ingredients (i did not allow my kids to do this for any of you receiving a crisp from me…they were both on peeling duty.) sprinkle the topping over the apples and bake for about 40 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling. let cool for about ten minutes and then serve with vanilla ice cream… it is also a pretty delicious breakfast - i just leave out the ice cream… i have gotten a little boulder!