Now is time of Octoberfests

Do you have your extra strength vitamins (and nerve) pills all lined up and ready to go? There are less than two months to get everything done that you had to do this year. Scary, isn’t it? We are at the edge of the busy – joyful, but stressful – holiday season. Either the world is turning faster or I am getting slower these days. It is important to take every day as it comes. Don’t borrow tomorrow’s troubles or mourn yesterday’s mistakes. One hasn’t come and the other has gone, so there is nothing you can do today about either one. One of the hardest of life’s lessons is to learn to take each day as it comes.

The local fairs are over and the craft shows are taking their place. The Barlow (Ohio) Fair was last weekend and lots of folks took advantage of the nice weather to enjoy the atmosphere of the last country fair of the year as well as Volcano Days near Parkersburg. Lowell Octoberfest is this weekend, along with several other local gatherings. The craft shows are always great, whether one is looking for Christmas gifts or ideas to make your own crafty items. It helps one in get in the spirit of this time of year. It is a pretty time of year, too, with the leaves starting to change colors and the morning mists softly drifting through the trees. Our valley has as pretty a fall show of color as any place I have ever seen. It isn’t necessary to travel to see “fall leaves” when folks from other areas come here to see what beauty we have. It is a negative human trait to think someplace else is always better than what we have at home. My Grandma Nichols used to say one should “grow where you are planted” anytime I started talking about where might be a better place to be.

There is a new pasture resident here on the hilltop – a miniature pony. He belongs to Caitlin, the very young girl across the road. She is barely more than a toddler, but she insists on “helping” take care of “her horse”. As the seasons change, the “hayfield” becomes the “pasture” and so the fences have to change and the horses check out their surroundings – and learn that they are still “fenced in”. They have accepted the new pasture buddy and all seem contented with the current status.

As this is written several days before you read it, the details of my granddaughter’s wedding will be later. By today, she and her new husband will be on their way to their honeymoon location. I wish them all the luck and love in the world as they start this new life together. How fast those little ones grow up and become adults. Of course, we don’t grow any older ourselves.

The local produce markets are filled with beautiful fall fruits. Last year in the Catskills of New York, I was introduced to Honey Crisp apples. They were so good. This year, I found them locally and they are even better than the New York apples. Do try them when you buy apples. Of course, all fresh apples are good, but this new variety of apples – at least, new to me – are the best apples I have ever eaten. They are a little more costly than the older varieties we have known, but are worth it. The fall fruits -apples, pears, plums and grapes -are so nice this year and all deserve a prominent place in our meals. The citrus fruits seem more important in the winter, but the fall fruits are today’s choice. There are still late peaches available, too. Another fall treat is the juice from the fall fruits such as the apple and pear ciders.

This is a good area for fruit, especially apples, and many farms have apple trees somewhere on the farm even if they don’t have a special orchard. Cider was a favorite for the early farm families for this reason. I remember riding around on the wagon to the “wild” apple trees to pick up the apples for cider when I was a kid. The hard cider was what many country folks served at the Saturday night pinochle parties. Kids never got any of it for a very good reason! Homemade wine was another country refreshment for card parties. Both find their way to the “deer camps” that lots of men go to during the hunting season even now. For some, hunting is not the main reason for those male retreats. It is the camaraderie, food, card-playing and seeing who made the best cider, beer or wine. Husband Norm hasn’t hunted since he was a teenager but is often invited to the deer camps. He declines now but one year did offer to make stew for the hunters. He mistook the powdered sugar for flour when making the stew and didn’t know it when he took it to the camp, but everyone seemed to like it. They asked him how he got that good sweet taste.

In Germany, the grape harvest is celebrated with the unfermented grape juice served at the local Gasthaus with an onion tart. All the villagers watch for the sign in the window announcing the arrival of that annual treat. The combination is very good. Of course, the tart is good with anything but either cider or the grape juice just starting to turn brings out the best flavor. This time of year is the time of the October fests there, too, so the entire population is ready to eat, drink, and be merry.

The American Legion of Beverly (Ohio) held its annual Chili contest a week ago. There were 20 entries and all different. This is one of my favorite fall duties – to help judge the chili. I think I may lay off chili for a while. They were all good, but one really shouldn’t eat that much at one sitting. It is so hard to judge which chili is the best, as everyone has a different idea as to taste and consistency and heat. That is why there are always at least three judges for any chili cook-off. If you are invited for a chili meal in this area, be certain it will be a good meal as every chili at the cook-off was good, just every one different. If there is a chili cook-off in your area, don’t be bashful about entering as every judge has a different taste and yours might be the one that just hits the spot.

Soon the finalists in our local cookbook contest will be notified to get ready to prepare their selected dishes for final judging on October twenty-third. All the recipes submitted will be in the special section of the newspaper the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I always enjoy trying lots of the recipes and several have become family favorites. Be sure to get that edition of the paper so you can enjoy some new recipes from some of the good cooks in our area.

Here are some fall recipes for you to enjoy, along with the fall flowers and colorful leaves. Enjoy, and God Bless.

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SPICED PUMPKIN FUDGE

(Anna Dean’s Recipe)

Three cups sugar

Twelve oz. butterscotch morsels

Three-fourths cup butter

Two-thirds cup evaporated milk

One-half cup solid pack pumpkin

One-half teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

One teaspoon vanilla

One 7-oz. jar marshmallow cream

In saucepan, combine sugar, milk, butter, pumpkin and spice. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and continue to boil over medium heat about fifteen minutes. Remove from heat, stir in morsels, vanilla and marshmallow cream. Put into pan or dish and let cool. Slice into pieces.

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CARAMEL CORN

Ten cups popped corn

One-cup pecan halves

One-cup whole unblanched almonds

One and one-third cups packed brown sugar

One cup butter

One-half cup light corn syrup

One-half teaspoon cream of tartar

One-half teaspoon baking soda

One-half teaspoon rum extract

Toast the nuts – it brings out the flavor. Combine popped corn and nuts. In a saucepan, combine sugar, butter, syrup, and cream of tartar. Stir constantly, over heat, until sugar is dissolved, then cook without stirring over medium heat until the mixture reaches the hard-crack stage – 300- to 310-degrees.

Remove from the heat and stir in baking soda and rum extract. Immediately pour over the popcorn and nuts. Toss gently and spread onto two greased large cookie sheets. Cool completely and break into chunks.

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PIZZA POPCORN

Two and one-half quarts popped popcorn

One-third cup butter or margarine

One-fourth cup grated Parmesan cheese

One-half teaspoon garlic salt

One-half teaspoon dried oregano

One-half teaspoon dried basil

One-fourth teaspoon onion powder

One-fourth teaspoon salt

Pace popcorn in an ungreased 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Melt butter in a small saucepan and add remaining ingredients. Pour over popcorn and mix well. Bake, uncovered in preheated 350-degree oven for fifteen minutes.

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COUNTRY FRIED APPLES

Cooking apples

Butter

Brown sugar

Cinnamon

Wash, core and slice apples. Do not peel. Melt butter in a heavy skillet. Over fairly low heat, add apples. Stir gently to keep from sticking. When they start to get transparent, sprinkle with brown sugar – to taste – and cinnamon – to taste. Serve warm. Great with pork. Even good with milk (or ice cream!) for a country dessert!

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HALLOWEEN

COOKIES

One-third cup soft shortening

One cup brown sugar

One and one-half cup dark molasses

One-half cup cold water

Six cups flour

One teaspoon salt

One teaspoon ground allspice

One teaspoon ground ginger

One teaspoon ground cloves

One teaspoon ground cinnamon

Two tablespoons baking soda

Three tablespoons cold water

Mix the shortening, sugar, and molasses together well. Stir in cup cold water. Sift together all the dry ingredients and stir in. Dissolve the baking soda in 3 tablespoons cold water and stir in. Chill dough. Roll out thick (about -inch) and cut out with pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter (or a round cutter). Place fairly far apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for about 15 to 18 minutes, or until no imprint remains when touched lightly with your finger. Cool completely on wire rack, then ice with Easy Orange Frosting.

NOTE: To make Gingerbread Men, add one cup more flour and cut with a Gingerbread Man cookie cutter.

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EASY ORANGE FROSTING

Three and one-half cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

One-half cup orange juice

Grated rind of one orange

One-third cup soft butter or margarine

Combine all ingredients and beat until soft and creamy. Add a drop or two of orange food coloring for Halloween faces. Spread on cooled cookies and make eyes, nose, and mouth with raisins, candy corn, or chocolate chips.

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Patty Christopher is a longtime food columnist for The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.