Friday, January 10, 2014

crab apple cookies

This past fall, months ago now, and a season entirely different from the snowy icy season I find myself firmly within now, I finally did what I had been talking about doing for a few years now.

I harvested crab apples from some of the trees I found on the river bank.

I was a bit nervous about doing this, as I did not want to poison anyone, and I had never done this before.  But I was on a bit of a wild foraging kick.  And these beautiful apples from a few trees were different from many of the other small apple trees here.  The apples were bigger, redder, and wonderfully sweet and tangy when I bit into one, much to everyone's horror who was watching.

Off and on, over a couple of weeks, I lugged the large ladder around the river bank, through the brambles, trying to get as many as these apples as I could.  They were very high up, and the trees seem to like to grow on the steepest part of the river bank.  I was often home alone when I headed out there, and one late morning I found myself with one foot on a ladder that it itself was only on one of its four legs, hanging on for dear life to a branch of a crab apple tree, all of us swaying together precariously.  These crab apples come along with some good stories that only I know.

But, in the end, I harvested enough to have to figure out what to do with them. 

I settled on Martha Stewart's crab apple jelly recipe.  So simple.  And so easy.  I think the jelly is delicious.  It reminds me a bit of cranberry sauce in flavor.  And its color is a beautiful seasonal red.

I have gifted some of it away, but I do still have a few jars of it in our refrigerator.

A few weeks ago, deep in the heart of a gloriously long holiday break, with days spent in our pajamas and without real structured plans and with a good deal of outdoor play and then brief times in the house to warm up before we headed out again, we found ourselves baking cookies.  We made a number of different batters and wrapped them up and put them in the fridge.

Mid break, particularly on the coldest of days when being outside was unpleasant, I could tell when voices were beginning to turn grumpy or impatient with each other, and when I heard this I would whip out a batch of cookie batter and let them at it.

One afternoon I pulled out the jam thumbprint cookie dough and Julia and Elliott went to work, pulling possible fillings for the thumbprint hole from the cabinets .  I let them decide, though I steered them away from a few that seemed destined for disappointment, and soon they had agreed on four fillings: the favorite chocolate kiss, strawberry jelly, Nutella (interesting), and a jar of the crab apply jelly.

It was messy, but they were in their zone.

Julia's favorite turned out to be the kiss.  But I loved the crab apple jelly filled cookies.  The jelly's tartness with the very sweet and buttery cookie was scrumptious.  Especially when paired with a cup of hot chocolate.

It was an activity that allowed us to blur two seasons, to think back to days of blue skies and warm sunlight and our hands filled with food foraged from here.  And the baking allowed us to be entertained and have a bit of structure when that was needed.  But, given that it was vacation, they apparently needed to stand on the furniture, just to keep things fun and informal, of course.  And we all were well fed with a sweet treat, and therefore were, decidedly, not crabby.

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