Memories of the Pawpaws and an Autumn Apple Crisp

For me, this has been one of those perfect fall weekends where you don’t have to go anywhere.  You don’t have to do anything.  But there’s just enough of a chill in the air to make the cat curl up in your lap every time you sit down (which, coincidentally, makes it hard to get back up). But weekends like this make me gravitate toward the kitchen.

Baking all the things suddenly seems like a fabulous idea.

Last night, we made kale calzones.

Beautiful kale

Beautiful kale

I was mercilessly made fun for commenting on the extreme beauty of this kale. But is it not gorgeous?  I think it could win some sort of Miss America of Green Leafy Vegetables.  Being a leafy green, you know it is intelligent and pretty (leafy greens promote brain power, according to the general Internet consensus).

And while I was at the Wild Ramp this weekend, you can definitely tell fall is in full swing.  The produce seemed to scream: Autumnal Red Alert!

If you are in need of some gourds or squashes

If you are in need of some gourds or squashes

There were also more peppers on hand than you could shake a snake at.

These look like burning

These look like burning, and they had many cohorts on hand this weekend at the Ramp

But the thing that I saw that made me the most nostalgic this weekend was the offering of black walnuts:

They looked so much fresher than the ones in the grocery store

They looked so much fresher than the ones in the grocery store

Every time I see any black walnuts in the store, I am reminded of walking the perimeter of the woods at my grandma’s house, putting the black walnuts in a huge bucket.   I would gather as many as I could find (still in their outer shell of protective green), and drag them back to the house.  I think I remember it because it was the first time I was allowed to use a hammer. I would sit them out, one by one, and crack them out of their green shell, and then crack open the actual walnut shells to find the nut inside.  It was a laborious process for a small child, but the nuts were unlike anything I had ever tasted.

Thinking back, I realize there were tons of foods we foraged for around our house.  Blackberry season was a frenzy to pick as many as we possibly could for those two or three weeks of peak bloom.

My grandma would make pies and cobblers of blackberries, and sometimes just wash them and tell us to eat them plain.

Then there were the pawpaws. Up deep in the woods, there was a small cluster of pawpaw trees.  I wasn’t allowed to go that far into the woods alone, but we would always stop there as we passed to grab a pawpaw or two.  I remember my dad picking them off the tree and handing them to me.  I never understood why we didn’t have those in the store, like the apples and bananas, because my goodness, they were delicious.

I asked my dad this summer if he knew if the pawpaw trees were still alive and bearing fruit.  He didn’t know because he hasn’t ventured that far into the woods in a while, so I’m certainly adding that to my summer 2015 daytrip list.

So this is the long way of saying that I’m no stranger to eating local foods.  Really local.  Like backyard local. But I kind of got away from it at some point.  Probably between late nights waiting tables and going to college and then grad school.  Fast food became too convenient.

Cooking is something I’m still learning to do (I think we all are, really). But now I try to patronize local food producers as much as I can.  So this weekend, my beauties of choice were the Jona Gold apples from the Wild Ramp. I decided to adapt a Skinnytaste recipe to my ingredients on hand.

Five--- five -- gorgeous apples.  Ah ah ah!  *In The Count voice*

Five— five — gorgeous apples. Ah ah ah! *In The Count voice*

For the Filling:

  • 5 medium apples, diced
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 3 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar

For the Topping:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (half stick) butter, melted

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375.  Dice up the apples, but not too small.  The original recipe also called for the apples to be peeled, but I have to disagree there.  The skin is the best part of the apple!  I can’t give that up.

I made an executive decision to cut them once again after this shot.  Your call!

I made an executive decision to cut them once again after this shot. Your call!

I also left out the raisins that were called for in the original recipe– and believe me, they are not missed!  Put the apples in a large bowl, add the cinnamon, cornstarch and agave nectar (if you can’t find agave nectar, honey will work fine). Once all that is coated, pour the apples in an ungreased pie pan. Then combine the rolled oats, whole wheat flour, light brown sugar and cinnamon.  Melt the butter and combine with the other toppings, making sure the toppings are moist. Pour the toppings over the apples, coating as well as you can. Pop the crisp in the oven for about 40-45 minutes. Your whole house will smell amazing.

Crowning culinary achievement of the weekend

Crowning culinary achievement of the weekend

This one’s a winner. You can thank me later!

Samantha Thomas-Bush

Happy Appalachy is a philosophy and a lifestyle of being happy where you are. It's about appreciating the small things and enjoying our culture, including our food culture. You can read more of my blog posts at http://www.happyappalachy.com.

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About Samantha Thomas-Bush

Happy Appalachy is a philosophy and a lifestyle of being happy where you are. It's about appreciating the small things and enjoying our culture, including our food culture. You can read more of my blog posts at http://www.happyappalachy.com.
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