I LOVE OCTOBER! The trees are bursting with fiery colors, farmers are harvesting their crops, corn mazes have been cut for fun autumn entertainment, houses and yards are decked out in Halloween decorations, and the apple cider mills are packed every weekend. By the way, October is also National Apple Month, among other things.
Apples are one of the largest and most valuable fruit crops grown in Michigan. Some of the most popular varieties are Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp and Red Delicious – these are also among the best apples for making cider. It takes about 20 pounds of apples (roughly 30-40 apples, depending on size) to produce one gallon of cider.
The state of Michigan is not the biggest producer of apples in the U.S. – that honor goes to Washington, as we come in third, behind New York. However, I read somewhere that Michigan slices more apples than any other state – mostly for apple pies, which are an all-American staple.
Incidentally, Michigan’s unofficial “State Dessert Pie” is a toss-up between apple and cherry – depending on where you poll. The Traverse City area (and the northern Michigan region) is famous for its cherry crops (and wine)! However, apples are the more abundant crop throughout the state, over all.
Michigan has about 775 family-run apple orchards and more than 60 cider mills. More than a dozen apple festivals are anticipated, all around the state, for next weekend.
All of my children agree that this time of year always reminds them of when my mom and dad used to take them and my sister’s kids to the Ruby Tree Farm & Cider Mill, a few towns away.
By the way, the fall in which we moved from Algonac to St. Clair, Mom and Dad took me and my sister, Cheryl, to see the famous tree farm and cider mill. Mom was very impressed with their pumpkin pie and created a wonderful imitation of it.
Since this is National Dessert Month, below is a copy of that recipe, as seen in Mom’s self-published cookbook, The Second Helping Of Secret Recipes, Revised (National Home News, St. Clair, MI; November 1978, p. 24).
I know it thrilled my parents to go to the tree farm just as much as it thrilled the kids. We all loved the big cafeteria style dining hall where we would get lunch and watch them press the apples into cider. There was another area where we always stopped to watch them make fresh donuts, too.
In a separate building, they sold old fashioned candy and souvenirs, as well as antiques. In that building, a large, old, player piano would usually be playing something festive. Dad would buy each of the kids some candy and sit with them on the hearth of the big fire place near the piano while Mom shopped.
My kids favorite memories there, besides spending time with their grandparents and having lunch in the big hall, included riding on an old fashion fire truck, walking through the petting zoo, riding the ponies, going on a hay ride around the farm, and picking out their own pumpkins to carve at home (plus, baking the seeds – see Mom’s secret recipe below).
Ruby’s local gem was a big tourist attraction for many decades. It first opened in 1956 and grew to hundreds of acres of trees and fall fun. It was very popular for its Christmas trees, November through December. So many families would traditionally go there, every year, to cut down their own perfect tree. The Reuters loved bringing families joy.
Unfortunately, after the owner passed away in 2009, his family decided to retire the business and everything was eventually auctioned off. They continued to sell through the rest of the property’s Christmas trees for another six years, until the farm permanently closed in 2015. It will always be remembered as the small family business with a big heart.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Mixed Blessings – Recipes & Remedies (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; March 1984, p. 15)
COOKING IS ONE OF THOSE personal accomplishments that afford us all the opportunity to express ‘talent’. We love being approved of. In fact, we eat it up! It’s the little pat on the back that gives us the incentive to continue trying. And where else, but in the kitchen, can you try to win approval with such satisfying results!
I’m very partial to my kitchen because it is the one place in our home where I feel the most comfortable! Whether I’m there alone, working on a recipe, or sitting at my desk, looking for inspiration on a new article I’m writing, or sharing a cup of coffee with a neighbor or a friend, who’s dropped by – it’s my favorite room!
I have a desk in the kitchen right next to the [glass] door-wall that overlooks the yard. Our daughter, Debbie, and our son-in-law, Jim, gave me a flowering Crab [Apple] tree last Mother’s Day, which they planted right in the middle of the yard.
I can enjoy it’s flowers each spring; also the very long bare, red branches during the autumn and it’s snow-covered limbs all winter. It’s my sundial, by which I observe the seasons and the changes involved with this natural wonder.
While the Scotch pines around this little tree never change, never go through the transition of bud to blossom to barren branches and then buds again, I can see the contrasts that are parallel to our own personal predicaments…
I’ve spent my entire life being a writer. It’s not what I do, but what I am. I love every minute of it, and by writing about what I have come to know best – cooking – it occurs to me that having a desk in my kitchen was awfully appropriate.
Mind you, I’m not all that crazy about cooking. It’s by default rather than decision that I have learned more about it than any other skill I’ve attempted.
When we lived in Algonac, Mom had a raised garden bed, about 8-ft square. I remember helping her harvest the strawberries, cucumbers, and tomatoes. I also recall picking rhubarb, apples, and pears from our little orchard along the driveway, with which she made jams, pies, and cobblers. By the way, October is also National Rhubarb Month.
During the first couple years of writing and self-publishing her newsletter, Mom included many gardening tips each month. Eventually that went to the wayside, along with some other “segments”, to make room for more copycat cookery. As Mom’s recipe business continually grew during the 1970s, she incessantly less time to spend on a garden.
I enjoyed learning how to garden from Mom, just as she had learned about it from my grandma. I loved harvesting the fruits and vegetables, from which she created so many wonderful dishes and desserts. Her strawberry-rhubarb pie was one of my favorites! [NOTE: A sugar-free version that Dad really loved, is on the recipes tab of this website.]
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Mixed Blessings – Recipes & Remedies (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; March 1984, p. 158)
THE SOUNDS OF SIMPLICITY
BACON CRACKLING AND A hot skillet… The crisp, first bite of a firm, juicy, red apple… The tinkling of a wind chime hanging in front of an open window on a breezy warm day… The steady, muffled static of a summer rain on the roof, like 1000 tiny mice scampering across a sea of tissue paper…
The snapping of a log burning in the fireplace on a cool evening… The soft delight in a child’s amused giggle… An old man humming a tune as he weeds his garden… The baritone foghorn of a freighter slipping through the mist-covered river… The low wooing whistle of a train interrupting the night…
The lake lapping against the beach as it pulls back into itself and returns again to caress the sand… The gargling whistle of wrens in the slanted morning sunshine of a new spring day… These are the sounds of simplicity that set a satisfying mood and give me a sense of contentment.
AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Mixed Blessings – Recipes & Remedies (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; March 1984, pp. 23-24)
[FALL IN MICHIGAN]
THE FIRST TIME WE saw the Traverse Bay area and upstate Michigan, we fell in love with it. It was Labor Day and summer was still at the peak of its promise. Six weeks later [in mid-October], we went back to the bay area to feast our eyes on the glorious, fiery colors of fall.
There was a crisp, clean chill in the air. Those long, straight, two-lane roads through the peninsula still lay like licorice ribbons on the slopes and hills of Old Mission region. The side roads were cut like corridors through a series of canopies in brilliant orange, red and yellow…
The trees were all standing like military sentries in full dress uniforms, crossing their branches above the roads like honor guards with their swords raised high.
It was a trip back into another time zone – peaceful valleys and wooded hillsides. Abundant were sturdy hedges of tall trees framing well-manicured cherry orchards – acres upon acres of them, as well as apple groves in great abundance everywhere!
Here and there a farmhouse and a weather-worn, well-kept barn reminded you that it was a populated and prosperous region, after all. The prosperity appeared to represent hard work, a practical living style and simplicity of needs, unlike the atmosphere of city dwelling.
Some of the recipes from dishes of this area have become my personal favorites. At the Settling Inn, in the village of Northport, a huge and tasty sandwich is the specialty of the house, presented on their own homemade bread; sliced quite right, and buttered on one side.
It’s grilling until crispy. Then the sandwich fillings are applied to the un-grilled side of the bread, and it’s assembled neatly and cut in half. With a mug of dark beer on a hot day, it hit the spot!
Sunday is the beginning of National Business Women’s Week, plus it’s still National Women’s Small Business Month, too. So next week I’ll share more of Mom’s stories about “Grandma’s Backdoor Bakery”. And speaking of “bakery”…
In honor of TODAY, being National Angel Food Cake Day, and it’s National Dessert Month, here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for Sanders’ [Style] Angel Food Cake; as seen in one of her first self-published cookbooks, The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; Jan. 1977, p. 40).
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
Today is… National Moldy Cheese Day! Plus, as the second Monday in October (for 2023), it’s… Native American Day and Columbus Day! Additionally, the second Mon.–Fri. in October [9th-13th for 2023] is… National School Lunch Week!
October 11th is… International Day of the Girl Child and National Sausage Pizza Day! Plus, as the second Wednesday in October (for 2023), it’s… National Take Your Parents To Lunch Day and National Curves Day!
…41 down and 11 to go!