Last year I wrote this article the week before Christmas. I think it’s just as relevant today and worth revisiting.
When I was a little girl, we always received apples and oranges in our Christmas stockings. At some point I recognized that this was a throwback to my parents’ depression-era childhoods when those items were very hard to come by, especially in Indiana in late December, and therefore a precious gift.
You see, back then having fruit trucked or flown across the country wasn’t as prevalent as it is today, and it would have made those items much more expensive. We were also not so far removed from being a predominantly agrarian society that ate locally and seasonally. Big fresh apples would be scarce in late December and oranges don’t grow here at all!
I think it’s wonderful that so many of us are getting back to those local and seasonal habits by shopping at farmers markets and eating what is locally available in season. My sons don’t think an apple in their stocking is any big deal, but it sure brings back memories for me!
Try these two apple projects with your kids over their holiday break!
Core a small apple and slice into 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Arrange on an oiled baking sheet and bake at 200 degrees F until dry but still soft, 2 to 3 hours.
Apple Popcorn Balls
Make Dried Apples (No. 1); chop enough to make 1/2 cup. Boil 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup each butter and light corn syrup, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until a candy thermometer reaches 300 degrees F, about 8 minutes. Mix with 6 cups popcorn, 1/2 cup chopped pecans and the chopped dried apples. Transfer to a buttered pan; cool slightly, then form into balls.
For the adults, pick up some cheese and honey from the farmers market to make a cheese board and serve it with this tasty apple treat for grown-ups only!
Boil 1 bottle red wine, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise pod and 3 strips orange zest in a medium saucepan. Add 4 peeled crisp, tart apples and simmer until tender, 30 minutes. Remove the apples; strain the liquid and boil until syrupy. Serve the apples and syrup over yogurt.