The perfect time of year for me is the Fall. Although wintertime runs a close second, Autumnal air simply harkens the past to the present. I think this time of year was so special to us Yankees because it was a time of gratitude and abundance. The animals were slaughtered and put up for the coming winter, the crop was taken in and strung to dry, eaten with abandon and stored for that cold winters dinner and the apples were being pressed for cider, sliced for pies and pastries that lasted for the next 6 months and eaten as is. I once read a passage from an old Maine farmer from the 19th century that when asked what his last meal would be before crossing that gate to everlasting life, he quickly(and without mincing his words) retorted "Mothers Biled applesawce". It was during the month of September that many of our ancestors put up cider first then sliced the remaining apples to string up over the fireplace to dry. It was at that time that apples were taken, peeled, cored and thrown into a large pot that was only used for homemade apple sauce. It would be half filled with cut up apples, some apple cider mixed in and let to boil over a 'slow fire' to reduce. When it was ready, more apples were added and the cycle continued until this large pot was filled with "Biled Apple sawce". It was then taken from the fire, placed in either crock pots or barrels and kept in the cellar to freeze(of course after a few days of everyone getting their fill). When a family wanted apple sauce, they went down, cut off a chunk and brought it upstairs to thaw and heat in a pot over the fire.
That same kind of memory instantly came to mind when I parked, exited my vehicle and started strolling through the paths between Cortlands and MacIntosh apple trees at Treworgy Orchards, in Levant, Maine. You could literally smell the dark red apples even before you could see them. And yes, even the Macs were dark red! I walked amongst the trees, on my way to the main stand. Think I could wait until I got to the register to take a big ol' bite of a freshly picked apple? Nope! And when I got to the main stand, I was truly blown away by another variety they had this year.
Although they didn't grow it, someone had supplied them with Wolf's River apples. These softball-sized apples aren't known to be overly pretty, but one bite and you will see why our ancestors almost entirely grew Wolf's River's. In fact, in the middle of nowhere, on top of my ancestor Josiah Baileys(1778-1869) hill, called Bailey Hill in Topsfield, Maine, there is a Wolf's River apple tree.
Anyway I am getting off track. After getting an ice cream cone for my youngest, grabbing the best apple cider I have ever tasted, Patty Treworgy greeted me with some of her own Apple Cider Donuts, made right there. How could I even think about passing these up? I couldn't, obviously. Just like everything else, I ate two of them before exiting the door. I just wanted to try all the candy, spreads and all manner of their own foodstuffs, but again, obviously I couldn't. Anyway I was there for one apple only, the new Liberty apple. This is the sweetest, eating apple I have ever had. I am a convert from the perennial favorite Mac to the Liberty now. Absolutely delicious.
Treworgy's FAMILY Orchards is truly a family gathering spot. They have a different corn maze every year that the kids, and many adults, find both fun and frustrating. The kids have the fun while the adults find the frustration at not immediately being able to determine how to exit this winding maze. Stubborn Yankees we are!!! The owners, and their entire family, are always on the grounds and every single one of them will take a minute just to chat with you. That is truly the Maine spirit, the Yankee disposition and neighborly cordiality very rarely seen today. Even the teenage kids and grandkids of the owners don't balk or shun the older generation. Being old enough to be their parents, I struck up a conversation with one of them and with a smile not often gleaned by their teen counterparts at other businesses. They were naturally pleasant, talkative and kind to me and everyone I saw them interact with.
If you want a great time for very little money, decorate your home with dozens of varieties of pumpkins and squash for the season, grab some apples for your kitchen bowl or just simply want to see the smile on your children's faces when a horse or goat gently nuzzles his backside against the fence for your "youngin' " to pet, this is the place and NOW is the time. Only wish fall lasted longer. Good job my friends and thank you for the natural kindness you show to everyone that walks onto your property.
Now about those Apple Cider Donuts. Those, too, were fantastic. And that, in turn, brings me to making my own within an hour of getting home,
Apple Cider-Spice Donuts
This is one donut(yeah, I spell it DONUT) that you will be making from here to Christmas and beyond. Undoubtedly the most flavorful donut you will make this year. The essence of New England not only hits your tongue but brings you back to your childhood, at the same time wishing those who are no longer with us could share in this purely Yankee treat. When using the pot method, make sure you give yourself a few minutes in between cooking donuts with the saucepan method, so the oil has time to heat back to 350-degrees F.
2 Liberty apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
2 cups apple cider
2/3 cup sugar
3 3/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, room temperature
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 1/2 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
Place the apples, cider and sugar into the bowl of a food processor, or blender, and pulse on high for 10-15 seconds, or until the apples are pulp-like in size, about 10-12 minutes. . Transfer to a saucepan and cook over medium high heat until reduced to 1 cup. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.*
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients for the donut dough. In another bowl, beat the butter until fluffy, on high speed, about a minute. Reduce speed to low and beat in the eggs, milk and maple syrup until well incorporated. Add to the flour mixture, along with the cooled cider reduction and butter mixture, slowly, and continue beating on low just until combined. It will be sticky. Cover with film wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.
While cooling, make the Apple Drizzle and Sugar Topping. In a small saucepan, heat apple cider over medium high heat until reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup brown sugar. Set aside. For coating, mix together sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Heat 2-3 inches of vegetable oil in a sturdy pot over medium heat until it reaches 350-degrees F, or use a deep fryer, heating according to manufacturer's instructions. Remove dough from refrigerator and turn out onto a well floured work surface. Knead, with extra flour, until it isn't sticky any longer, about 2 minutes. With a rolling pin, roll to about an inch thick. Cut out donuts with a donut cutter or a round cookie cutter. If you don't have anything to cut out the centers, just eyeball it with a sharp knife. Gather up dough, re-knead and cut more donuts. Cook 2-3 donuts at a time in hot oil for about 2 minutes per side. Remove carefully to a paper towel-lined platter, pan or rack. Continue with remainder of dough. Of course, cook the donut holes as well.
Dip the cooled donuts into the Apple Drizzle, coating both sides quickly. Immediately dip in sugar mixture, coating both sides. Set aside to cool to at least room temperature.
Makes about a Yankee dozen
*By boiling the apple cider until it reduces, this resulting liquid is so intense with apple flavor, yiou could use it in many other desserts tht call for vanilla as well, and intesnse is an understatement.