This is a great time for fall fruits and veggies. The apples are juicy and crisp and are so much nicer than the ones from cold storage we get in the middle of winter. The pumpkins and winter squash are plentiful and good used so many ways besides making Jack-O-Lanterns from them. It is easy to use fresh pumpkins in any baking, but I sometimes get lazy and get the canned puree, especially when the fresh ones are not readily available. If fresh ones are used, let the puree drain until it is the consistency of the canned variety.
Are you ready for those little goblins that will be visiting this next week? The recipes today are for you to use for your little ones at home or to take to a community or church party. It is a shame that we have to be so careful when we take the young ones out to trick or treat. Who would ever believe that someone would want to hurt them, but there are crazy people out there. Make certain that all the goodies they get are packaged unless you personally know the folks who give them out. That is why one can't give out apples or home baked goodies to all who knock on your door. The private parties are the best for the kids, and they still can have fun. I liked the ideas of those dentists who will buy back the candy from the kids. How much money will you little ones make?
Many of the fall festivals in our area make apple butter the old fashioned way; over an open fire outside with constant stirring by someone using a special apple butter stirrer. One can see why it took several people to make it that way because one person could not handle constant stirring with that heavy stirrer all day. It was always a two-day job at our house. The first day, the apples were peeled, cored and quartered. They then were precooked so that the next day, the cooking over the fire would take a shorter time. It was either an extended family occasion or a few neighbors together to make the butter for the winter. Before the session was finished, the apple butter would be canned and divided among the workers. Apple butter on hot, buttered cornbread is a great evening meal.
Another annual event in the Stone Age was the threshing day on the farm. The man who owned the threshing machine would make a round of the farmers in the neighborhood, working one farm, then another. The neighbors would follow the machine, helping the farm owner with the threshing work. The women would come with their husbands and assist the farm wife with the meal for all workers. There was friendly rivalry as to which farmwife put on the best meal or made the best pies. Sometimes, it wasn't so friendly. After the cooking, eating, and cleaning up, the wives would visit and catch up on neighborhood happenings. During the harvest season, the quilting bees were put on hold, so the social meetings were usually only work occasions. The fact of neighbors helping each other and watching out for each other was what kept the community going. There aren't many communities like that today, but it was necessary as our ancestors settled this area. It was the training ground for the young folks, too, as they learned the work ethic, respect for others, and how to live with others. If we had this all over the world, it would be a safer, and happier, place to live for everyone.
I hope you enjoy making some of these goodies for your family, and, better yet, with your family. Some of my favorite memories are of making snack food with Mom and my two grandmothers.
Do plan ahead for the coming holidays to help reduce the stress and be sure to include in that plan some time for yourself. Don't let the commercialism of the season take over your family celebrations. Be good to yourself and help someone who is less fortunate than you. Count your blessings!
10 medium apples
10 wooden skewers or craft sticks
Six cups sugar
One-and-one-half cups water
One cup light corn syrup
Two teaspoons cinnamon extract
One-fourth teaspoon red food coloring
Wash and dry apples. Remove stems and insert wooden skewers into stem end of each apple. Set aside (room temperature). Combine sugar, water, syrup and cinnamon extract in a heavy saucepan. Stir well. Bring to a boil, then cover and cook three minutes. Uncover and continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture reaches soft crack stage, which is 290 degrees on a candy thermometer. Add food coloring, mixing well. Transfer syrup to the top of a double boiler and place over boiling water. Quickly dip apples into syrup, allowing excess to drip off. Place apples on lightly greased baking sheets to cool.
Six large, firm apples
One bag (14-oz. size) caramels
One teaspoon vanilla extract
One tablespoon water
Two cups mixed chopped nutmeats
Six craft sticks
Wash and dry apples and remove stems. Place a craft stick into the stem end of each apple. Unwrap caramels and place with vanilla and water in a microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave on high about 90 seconds or until melted. Stir a couple of times during the melting process. Dip the apples, one at a time in the caramel mixture, using a spoon if necessary to cover apple. Let excess drip back into bowl. Roll in the chopped nutmeats and place on a lightly greased waxed paper lined baking sheet. Place in refrigerator and chill at least 15 minutes.
10 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 popcorn and nuts. In a saucepan, combine sugar, butter, syrup and cream of tartar. Stir until dissolved, then cook without stirring, over medium heat until the mixture reaches the hard-crack stage 300-310 degrees. Remove from the heat and stir in baking soda and rum extract. Immediately pour over the popcorn and nuts. Toss gently and spread in two greased large baking pans. Cool completely and break apart, then store in airtight containers. This mixture can also be form into popcorn balls.
One-half stick butter
One bag (10-oz) marshmallows
One-fourth cup brown sugar
Three quarts popped popcorn
Using a heavy pot, melt the butter over a low heat. Add the marshmallows and brown sugar and stir until melted. Remove from heat. Place popcorn in a large bowl and pour the marshmallow mixture over it. Toss together well. Butter your hands and shape the corn into balls. (If children are helping, make certain the mixture doesn't burn their hands.) Set on waxed paper to dry. Great for that Halloween Party.
These are great for a Christmas Party, too. Just put a candy cane in the top of each one. They can even be hung on the tree.
CINNAMON CANDY POPCORN
Eight quarts popped popcorn
One cup butter or margarine
One-half cup light corn syrup
One package (9-oz.) red-hot cinnamon candies
Put popped popcorn in a large bowl. In a saucepan, combine other ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour this mixture over the popped popcorn and mix thoroughly. Turn into two greased 15 by 10 by one-inch baking pans (large cookie sheets that have a raised edge). Bake at 250 degrees for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and place on waxed paper to cool. When cool, break apart, then store in airtight containers. This mixture can also be formed into popcorn balls.
Patty Christopher is a longtime food columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel.