Arrival of autumn brings squirreliness and a craving for cider and apple crisp

September 25, 1996|By Rob Kasper

THE APPLES ARE ripening faster than the tomatoes. The jug of iced tea in the refrigerator has been replaced with a gallon of apple cider. And instead of a cool dessert made with soft summer berries, or sweet peaches, I hunger for a hot, crunchy, crisp made with tart apples.

These are signs of the change from summer to fall. The seasonal switch-over always arrives earlier than I expect, but so far the pace of change has been gradual.

For example, the big buckeye tree down the alley has been dropping nuts at a slow, steady pace. The bigger buckeye deposit will come later with colder weather.

Now the buckeye-toting squirrels who pass each other along the power lines like commuters on the JFX, some northbound, some southbound, seem busy but not frenzied. In a few weeks this will change. The wind will get sharper, the rain will seem colder, the sunlight will fade. By then the buckeyes will have descended and the squirrels and I will be wearing our winter coats.

In these early autumn days, however, you can wear sweat shirt and shorts, pick tomatoes, and eat early apples. That is what I did the other day.

There were still reddish tomatoes in the garden, but they were ripening at a much more measured gait than they had during their glory days in August. Moreover, they seem to have lost some of the pleasing taste they had in the summer. But that is just one man's opinion. The creature -- a ground hog? a rabbit? a squirrel -- who has been nibbling on the garden's ripe tomatoes doesn't seem to agree. It is eating the fall tomatoes with the same enthusiasm it displayed throughout the summer.

Except for a handful of yellow bugs furiously feeding on the leaves of my horseradish plant, the garden seemed subdued. By contrast, the Sunday morning Farmers' Market in downtown Baltimore was teeming with activity. I joined a stream of shoppers moving though the makeshift stalls, eyeing the familiar fruits and vegetables of the summer as well as the autumnal newcomers.

The watermelons and cantaloupes looked tempting. But I wasn't in the mood for melons. Instead I wanted to join the ranks of the apple-toters I saw in the market. Some were carrying mere handfuls of apples, some were lugging big plastic sacks of apples, the equivalent of a bushel basket.

For eating, I bought a dozen Gala apples. Their skins, a mix of red and yellow, reminded me of some of the tomatoes I had seen in my garden. Their sweet and juicy flavor was, I thought, much better than anything that had come from my garden lately.

For sipping, I bought a gallon of dark apple cider. This was cider with a few pieces of apple floating in it. Seeing these "floaters" in my cider is a sign that I am drinking the real stuff, not some apple-flavored liquid made from concentrate.

For cooking, we had some tart green apples, some Granny Smiths that my wife had bought at the grocery store. Using these apples, she made a simple, satisfying apple crisp.

So as the buckeyes fell and squirrels scampered, I ate apple crisp. It felt right.

Apple crisp

Serves 6

6 tart apples

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

3/4 cup flour

pinch of salt

6 tablespoons butter

whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Heat oven to 350.

Peel, core and slice apples into a bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and the lemon juice. Mix lightly and pour into a buttered 1 1/2 quart casserole.

Blend the remaining sugar, flour, salt and butter to a crumbly consistency, sprinkle on top of apple mixture.

Bake until the apples are tender and the crust is brown. This usually takes about 45 minutes.

Serve warm topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Pub Date: 9/25/96

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