One of the things I love about Dutch is that to communicate a concept, the language just makes a long word out of several smaller words. Hence, appelplukdag: apple picking day. Our American friend Anne discovered that September 17 was declared such a day, and many farms would open their orchards to the common fruit enthusiast.
Four adults and one dog piled in a car (a car!) and headed to a farm outside Utrecht in Vleuten called De Groene Ham. A partially rainy day did not mar our experience, especially since we had the website’s helpful advice to wear sturdy shoes….
I don’t suppose I really need to describe apple picking. The farm was lush and green (thank you, Dutch rain); there were children running around, a hayride, a clown painting faces, and rows of skinny apple and pear trees waiting to be picked clean. On the way out we visited the farm’s shop and I bought some fresh milk and butter. All four of us New Englanders were a bit giddy because the activity felt so… well… American. I know it’s not rational to identify the simple act of picking apples with a nationality, but the afternoon of apple picking felt much like something we would have done in New Hampshire or Vermont in the fall, and so it reminded us of home. For the second consecutive year I remain convinced that autumn is actually the season during which I miss Boston the most. The fall foods, the leaves, the crops: fall is the best-smelling season, and my favorite in New England.
1. Eat a few as snacks.
Family recipes can be a little ambiguous. My mom has sent me recipes before when I’ve asked about some delicious dish of my childhood that include quantities like “some onions” or instructions like “you can use whatever you have on hand.” I am not an intuitive enough cook that these instructions always work out well.
So there were some moments of apprehension when my husband requested his grandmother’s applesauce recipe, and the instructions read to put your desired quantity of apples in one or two inches of water, in a pot, quartered or peeled, and cook them until soft, then strain. It sounds simple, but this is exactly the kind of thing that I can ruin.
We hit some anxiety after about twenty minutes of boiling when the apples were getting quite soft, but swimming in a watery mess. Discussion concluded that the one/two inches of water were intended for a much larger quantity of apples than we were dealing with. A two-pronged attack ensued: we added a bunch more apples, and I ladled out a cup of apple-y liquid (I drank it, actually). This got us back on track, and we wound up jarring two large containers of a very tasty applesauce, with no sugar or cinnamon needed. Hele succes!