If you live in an area of the country that experiences the change of seasons, apples are often the epitome of fall. With the ripening of apples on the trees comes the beginning of school and field trips to pick apples at the local farm. Come September, our family ALWAYS goes to pick apples at a local farm. It's one of our favorite fall traditions.
There is something inherent in the food itself that bonds us together. Perhaps it's because food is a basic need, a basic desire, a basic joy. Whatever the case, many of our family traditions are based on food. While some were thoughtfully instituted, others spilled out of every day life. Many of our traditions follow the seasons through the year, as foods come and go with the changes in season. In our neck of the woods, September is the height of apple season, so, for our family, September means apples. We visit our local farm and pick pounds and pounds of apples.
Traditions are healthy for both little ones and adults alike. Traditions bring stability to an ever-changing life and world. They ground us and oftentimes remind us of what is most important. Traditions give us joys to look forward to and memories to look back on. They connect us to one another and give us a history with each other. For children in particular, traditions provide structure and permanence, along with opportunities to bond with family and feel joined to and a part of their family.
Our Apple Picking Tradition
When we go to pick apples, we make it an event. Our family drives out to a local farm and we talk, take our time, munch on apples and pick as many as we can carry back to the van with us. On the way home we talk about what we should make with our apples, and we always bake something that day or the next. While it's nothing novel or amazing, it's a simple tradition we all enjoy. It's not flashy, it's not expensive, it's not crazy busy, but our children look forward to it each year, and our school-age kids already know that September means apples and a family trip to the orchard. It's a day we spend in the beautiful outdoors, connecting with nature and enjoying God's wondrous creation as it shifts and changes once again toward fall.
Sweet Apple-y Goodness
Our very favorite apple recipe to make, and the one we always make, is apple crisp. Sometimes we make a large crisp for dinner, enjoying it warm and topping it off with homemade ice cream. Other times we make an apple crisp for breakfast the next morning. One thing I appreciate about apple crisp is that there are more recipes than you can count! It's easy to find a gluten and grain-free version, dairy-free or a paleo version, for instance, if you have specific dietary needs.
Another favorite apple recipe of ours is what we call our “Breakfast Cake.” We make it as either a soaked cake or a sourdough cake. It's not really a cake since it's not that sweet, but my kids love that name and they love having “cake” for breakfast. We like to toss diced apples into the batter along with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom, and then we serve it with lightly sweetened, freshly whipped cream flavored with a splash of vanilla extract. Two more yummy apple breakfasts are Overnight Apple Pie Oatmeal and this Breakfast Quinoa — just sub out the blueberries for diced apples.
Now, who doesn't love a good, old-fashioned homemade apple pie? Take the time to whip up your favorite recipe. Or perhaps try a soaked crust, a gluten-free crust, or perhaps something altogether different like this GAPs-friendly variation or this raw apple pie?
The best two ways to preserve apples, I think, are to dehydrate them or to make applesauce. You can try a raw applesauce that can be frozen, or a traditional cooked applesauce that can then be canned and stored in the pantry or fermented and stored in cold storage.
But who ever said apple traditions have to be sweet? Many of us are seeking to avoid sugar. Well, good news here! Apples are a marvelous addition to savory dishes. Try adding sliced apples to your roasted root vegetables. Or instead of the dried apricots in this chicken salad, add finely diced apples. Fire up the grill and prepare sausage-apple-zucchini kabobs.
Saute sliced apples in butter and serving alongside pork or chicken. Steam diced and peeled apples with sweet potatoes, add butter and mash for a hearty side dish. Or stuff acorn squashes with sausage, quinoa and apples for an all-in-one meal.
Don't Overlook Simplicity
Grab your spouse (or kids or friends…) and go pick apples! Get outdoors and talk about which apple-laden sweet and savory dishes you will make and eat together. Don't overlook something as simple as a trip to the apple orchard as becoming an established tradition. What makes a tradition a tradition is simply the repetitive nature of it. It always happens.
Is apple-picking one of your fall traditions? What's your favorite apple recipe?
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