Since we became parents, we’ve kept a running list unofficially titled: Things That Sound Like Fun with Kids, But Are Actually Not at All.* Parades fall into this category. Street fairs. Any event with the words “Harvest Fest” in its name. Beach day-trips made a brief appearance on the list, when Phoebe was four months old and we decided it would be superfun to go to Long Island’s Robert Moses State Park and stroll her in the Snap-and-Go (you know, the thing with wheels) across miles of hot, soft sand. I think Andy is still scarred from that one.
Last weekend, we were tempted to add another one to the list: Apple Picking. I know, I know. It’s heresy to say that on a food blog in October so I will qualify the statement a little by saying: Apple Picking in an Un-vetted Orchard. That’s where we ended up last Sunday.
Earlier in the afternoon, a postcard-perfect fall day, we were sitting on the sidelines of — where else? — a soccer game in rural Connecticut when Andy decided he didn’t want to return home without a bushel of Macouns or Cortlands. So at the half, we started googling. We DM’d a friend or two for recommendations. We googled more. We landed on a place that was about half way between the field and our house, a place that shall remain nameless.
Curse you Google!
Once, when the girls were about 2 and 3, we went apple picking in Saratoga. There were orchards bursting with every variety imaginable. There was a charming little market store that sold apples, pumpkins, and most crucially, bags of warm cider doughnuts. It was probably crowded, but since the orchards were spread across so many acres, it was hard to even know.
Ohmygod, not the case on last weekend’s sojourn. We should’ve probably turned around as soon as we felt — not heard, felt — the DJ blasting Kanye from miles away. Pulling in, we were greeted by a neon jumpy castle and a staff of about eight million, most of whom were holding those batons used by air traffic controllers to direct runway traffic. It was difficult to find a spot, but not nearly as difficult as it was to find the actual apple trees. Were they next to the artisanal coffee truck that was all out of artisanal coffee? Were they next to the Hard Cider Bar populated by tipsy, black-clad city folks? Were they behind the hayride, which was manned by teenagers who wore overalls, straw hats, and dead-in-the-eyes expressions that said I would rather be anywhere than here.
I could relate to those teenagers!
We found the trees, most of which were plucked completely barren except for the very tippy tops. I was ready to short-circuit, but Andy was determined. He somehow found one of those picking poles and, with the help of the girls, filled our $30 sack to the brim.
“Mom, why are you so grumpy?” Abby asked.
“You don’t want me to answer that question.”
We were outta there about 20 minutes later.
I’m happy to report that the visit was redeemed pretty easily by an apple cobbler later that night. (Andy used our classic fruit cobbler recipe, with great results.) But the bag of Macouns sat in the corner of our kitchen and taunted me for days…weeks. Don’t let us go to waste! They said. It’s your final shot at closure! So yesterday, with about a day left on their clocks, I decided to toss every last one into the slow cooker, in the manner that a witch might if she’s crafting a potion to exorcise a demon or two. Eight hours later, the house smelled divine, and I had reduced the day to an eight-ounce jar of apple butter. Victory.
Slow Cooker Apple Butter
Makes enough to just about fill an 8-ounce jar.
6 cups sliced, peeled apples (preferably baking apples, but all will work; I used about a dozen small macouns)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cinnamon stick
1 slice lemon, any pits removed
1/2 cup water
Throw all the ingredients into a slow cooker on 8-hour low setting, lid slightly ajar. Stir every few hours or so. When the apples look soupy, rich, and brown, let cool. Remove cinnamon stick and lemon peel, then puree with an immersion blender or whirl in a food processor. Store in a jar and keep in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days. Spread on popovers or croissants, stir into yogurt with walnuts, or serve with pork chops.
*Things That Sound Like Fun with Kids, But Are Actually Not at All, The Complete List
While I was writing this post, I emailed Andy “What else is on that list?” Floodgates: Open.
- Swimming lessons
- Wiggles concerts
- Mommy and Me music classes
- Any music class
- Laser tag parties
- Pottery classes
- Ice skating
- Sand art
- Watching a Yankees game
- Children’s museums
- Art museums
- High End Hot Chocolate Places
- Reading “Magic Treehouse” books
- Watching The Sound of Music