Upstate New York is known for its delicious apples. Each autumn, orchards roll out their red, yellow, and green goodness, cider presses offer their ambrosial best, and folks everywhere delight at the numerous confections produced in kitchens across the land. When fresh apples appear in mounds at farmers’ markets and grocery stores, when the cider presses open, that is when autumn has officially arrived, and this little Druid rejoices!
While I’ll join my fellow grovies on Saturday for a formal ritual to honor and thank the Earth Mother for her bounty, I’ve spent my Autumn Equinox eating a homemade meal with my little family and enjoying the harvest of apples – including some from a tree right outside my home! I’ve already dehydrated some for snacking. Today I decided to do something simple and quick – apple sauce.
It’s such a simple dish – a large batch of apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon. Recipes say that last ingredient is optional, but you’re a strange one if you omit it. Blended together, the aroma wafts through the home, the most welcomed autumn incense you could dream up. While the plant world is dying or preparing for sleep, the smell of apples is youthful energy unleashed!
Unlike store-bought applesauce, the homemade variety, fresh off the stove, tastes like apple pie filling without the crust. All the good stuff – the heart and soul of the autumn season. The only thing more gastronomically titillating is pumpkin pie filling. Oh, mama… Speaking of mamas, there’s something very motherly about apple sauce to me. Perhaps it’s because one of my first childhood memories is of watching my grandmother make it using apples straight off her tree – apples I helped to pick and sort. As my baby salivated and smiled at the sugary treat of apple sauce, I realized that I was passing along yet another North Country tradition, one that goes back generations to the Old World.
Another apple tradition, one that I’ve never tried before, is drying apple heads to make dolls. As someone who enjoys making dolls and learning about traditional arts, I don’t know why it’s taken me this long. Using an apple that had a massive bruise on one side (normally I’m not a fan of wasting food, but this one was going to get thrown in a hedge anyway), I carved a face, inserted peppercorns for eyes, and placed in my oven on a low setting. It’s still drying nicely, and my hope is to make an offering for our Autumn Equinox celebration this weekend.
I hope your own harvest celebrations have been equally sweet and inspiring! May your harvest invigorate your heart, mind, and soul, and may it reconnect you to your Ancestors and the rhythms of Nature!