Once upon a time there was a beautiful apple tree. When I was maybe 10, my dad took me to the plant nursery and let me choose whatever kind of tree I wanted to plant in the backyard, to replace one that had died. My family had just enjoyed some magnificent apples, bright red with little red capillary-like veins running through the creamy white flesh. At the market, they were labeled Rome Beauty, at a time when the choice was usually just red or green. Thirty years later and I still remember those apples. I have not had or seen anything like them since. No Rome Beauty I have ever purchased has had those little veins. But I was so intrigued by that delicious apple, that when apple varieties were an option for the new tree, I had to have one. I think it was even meant to be a Rome Beauty. So the tree was planted overhanging the patio, and grew there slowly doing little more than casting shade. But it was me and Daddy’s tree.
About 10 years ago, the tree started to produce apples. Little, hard green ones at first, most of which fell to the ground or were eaten by birds, but eventually my farmer father rigged up some netting, and the apples proliferated. Apples, apples everywhere. My father even jerry-rigged this little bag-on-a-stick thingy to harvest the apples from the high branches.
By the time the tree, which we all thought was purely decorative, started producing apples, I was no longer living at home. So the task of dealing with the apples fell to my mother. Ain’t that always the way. And she took to it like a champion. She collected apple cookbooks, cut out every magazine recipe involving apples, and copied down anything friends passed along. She still has a red file folder stuffed with apple ideas. She makes amazing apple sauce and apple bread. She peals and cuts the apples and dips them in acidulated water, then freezes Ziploc bags full so we can have fresh applesauce anytime. And she makes amazing apple pie. Literally, Mom’s Apple Pie. She freezes those too, so we always have one at family get-togethers. Apples became a great gift giving theme, which I imagine she hated. For Christmas and birthdays, we gave here apple peelers, apple pie dishes, apple books, apple notepads. She, of course, has a love hate relationship with the apples – loves to eat, hates to peel and core.
I write this memory up as fall is coming on and apples of every color and variety are showing up in the markets. Apples are so associated with fall. But our tree reaches its production peak in June. So frankly, I associate apples with summer.
The tree has slowed down production, but it is still a beautiful tree. Me and Daddy’s tree.
Apple Pie Bars
This is my very favorite result of my Mom’s apple efforts. I don’t know where in her little red folder it came from, but I highly recommend you try a batch today.
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 large baking apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
6 ounces (1/2 a 12-ounce package) butterscotch chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 by 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly combine the oil, eggs and sugar. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, soda and spices together in a bowl, then add to the oil mixture in the mixer, beating until thoroughly mixed. The batter will be thick.
Use a sturdy spoon to stir in the apple pieces. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it out evenly. Sprinkle the butterscotch chips over the top, pressing them into the batter lightly.
Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, until the golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan slightly.
Cool thoroughly and cut into squares.
Makes 24 bars