It seems that Jennifer and I are making an annual tradition out of apple picking in Woodstock, IL. It’s a good outing for a fall Saturday, and an opportune excuse for having some girl time without the constant conversation from the spouses.
Good intentions aside, we never can seem to pick the best weekend to go. Last year, we were completely unprepared for the cold, wet day ahead of us; we learned just how hard it was to pick apples with numb fingers. This year, we left Chicago with optimistic thoughts, both saying this exact sentence: “There’s no way the weather will be worse than last year!” and with good reason – Summer had decided to roll into town for one last hoorah, and we knew that this year the ground was dry, the gloves would stay home (just like they did last year!), and we’d be wearing sunglasses.
What we didn’t realize was that we’d be sweating as well as fighting “the crowds” and the truck carrying multiple groups of fellow pickers around the orchard (as if it’s hard to walk through it, or something). We also didn’t realize that, as opposed to last year’s plethora, this year’s orchard was slim pickin’s, in fact most of the apples were all over the ground.
Despite all of said adversity, we triumphed and each left with a full peck of apples and a little less water weight. If you couldn’t have guessed, we did not seek out any hot apple cider or coffee like we did last time. We did, however, manage to find apple cider slushies, and those were the meal ticket.
Now the question is, what to do with all these apples? My initial inclination was to make caramel apples since I never got around to that last year. But for whatever reason, I’ve had plenty of bad luck with caramel. Come round three, the apples were getting tired of waiting in the fridge and despite the graininess of this attempt at caramel, I dunked those apples into the caramel, let it harden, and didn’t look back.
For some reason, even grainy caramel is tasty, and thank goodness, the apples don’t discriminate.
What are you doing with your apples this year?
Adapted from Cooking Light, September 2010; makes 4-8 apples
time commitment: 1 hour, plus time for caramel to harden in fridge
4-8 wooden sticks
4-8 small, firm apples
1 c sugar
1/4 c light corn syrup
1/4 c water
1 c half & half
1 t vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/2 c peanuts, chopped finely (optional)
push wooden sticks into top of apple and keep in refrigerator until ready for dipping.
put sugar, corn syrup, and water in large saucepan; boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. boil, without stirring, until it becomes light golden brown (9-10 minutes).
combine half & halff, vanilla, and salt; slowly stir into saucepan. boil until candy thermometer reaches 235 F (30-45 minutes), stirring frequently.
pour caramel into a bowl sitting in a hot water bath. swirl apples in caramel, roll in peanuts (if using), and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.