Sunday, October 9, 2011

Learning the Hard Way - Again!

I guess I've always been one to learn things the hard way.

During this time of year, my parents' garden would have been pretty much over and cleaned up.  The final weeks of summer would have been spent "puttin' food by".

But, the apples kept on producing for a bit longer.

We had thirteen apple trees on our property.  Most of them were the Golden Delicious variety, and in my opinion there is none better!  All of the delicacies that can come from an apple came from that particular apple - applesauce, apple butter, apple pies, apple crisp, fried pies, sausage and apple stuffing, you name it!
But, I learned a very hard lesson from dried apples, i.e. dehydrated apples.

My mom and her mom kept a supply of dried apples to make stack cakes.  At many southern funerals, a stack cake was almost always on the food table.  It was a staple.  It required dried apples.

Mom would peel, cut and slice bushel after bushel of these beautiful apples.  We had no dehydrator, so most of the time she used the oven - sometimes even the back window of our car.  If it happened to be humid, which it often is in Ohio, it would take a little longer.  Dad did build some screens to dry them outside.  This helped to prevent flies from getting on them.  Sometimes they even dried them in front of the fireplace. 

Mom stored these dried apples in big, half gallon jars or plastic wear. 

One day, I happened upon some and decided to eat some.  She warned me not to eat too many.  I also had a bottle of 7Up. 

Big mistake.

She warned me to slow down on the apples, and for goodness sakes, don't drink the 7UP!!  But, I was thirteen years old, and I knew more than her.

So, I thought.

Oh, I can't even begin to describe the pain and misery I was in as those apples began to rehydrate!!!  I laid on the bed and rolled back and forth all night trying to calm everything down that was going on inside of me.  I just had to let nature take its course, and watch my mom wagging her head with that "I told you so" look.

I guess I should have listened and watched the older generation better than I did.  They preserved and prepared so they would never have to depend on anyone else to take care of them.

I miss them...

Dried Apple Stack Cake
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cooked dried apples
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream shortening and sugar; add beaten egg, molasses, buttermilk, and mix well. Sift flour, soda, salt, and ginger into a big mixing bowl. Make hole in center of dry ingredients and pour in creamed mix, stirring until well blended. Add vanilla, stir well, and roll out dough as you would for a piecrust. Cut to fit 9-inch pan or cast-iron skillet (this amount of dough will make 7 layers). Bake layers for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. When cool, stack layers with spiced, sweetened old-fashioned dried apples. (See recipe below.) Spread between layers and smooth around sides and top. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, or beat egg whites into a meringue and spread on outside of cake. You may brown the meringue if desired. Prepare cake at least a day before serving it and put in refrigerator (it will keep several days, if necessary, in a cool place). To serve, slice into very thin layers.
Cooked Dried Apples*
Put 1 pound apples in heavy pan and cover with cold water. You may need to add water several times to keep apples from sticking to pan. Cook until soft enough to mash. While still hot, mash apples and add 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup white sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon cloves, and 1 teaspoon allspice.
*If dried apples are not available, cook several pounds cooking apples with a little water. Add spices and sugars as listed above, and cook until mixture is very thick., "Appalachian Heritage, A Literary Quarterly of the Appalchian South", Fall 2004.

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