Monday, August 8, 2011

Riding the Rails in Apple Country

Autumn is fast approaching. Last Fall I went to the North Georgia Mountains with the kids. We had made plans to spend a week, and one of the things we made reservations to enjoy, was the Pumpkin Express. It is a lovely train ride through the mountains, alongside the river to a pumpkin field. Each person who takes the ride gets to choose a pumpkin from the field and bring it back on the train with them. The children loved it, and so did the adults.

With SIX pumpkins between us, and the girls were only going to carve two, I hunted a recipe for fresh pumpkin. And, boy did I find a good one. This recipe would not be the same with canned pumpkin, so use the fresh. It is worth it.

First, slice your pumpkins in half and roast in the oven at 375 degrees until soft when pierced with a meat fork. Let cool and remove the flesh from the shell.
After it cooks, proceed with the following recipe for


* 2 cups pumpkin puree
* 1 cup evaporated milk
* 1 cup white sugar
* 1/2 cup self-rising flour
* 2 eggs
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/2 cup butter
* 2 pinches ground cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Combine the pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla, melted butter and ground cinnamon to taste. Spoon into a casserole dish.
3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 1 hour.

Believe me, your family will never want pumpkin pie again after they taste this delectable dessert!

We stayed in a lovely three story cabin with a lake at the bottom of the hill. The girls went fishing in a canoe and had a great time. We also took a day to go to Mercier Orchards and get great fresh apples. We bought bags and bags of apples, and when I got home I made apple butter. The great part about making apple butter yourself, is you can add just the amount of spice and sugar you prefer. I actually do a lot of "tasting" because different apples produce a different taste, and you need to adjust spice, brown sugar and white sugar to find the exact taste you are looking for.

If you want the easy way out, quarter the apples and cook them overnight on low with just a little apple juice in the bottom of a slow cooker. By morning they will have cooked down and you can run them through a "ricer" to get the seeds and skins out of the mixture. Then, place the applies in a dutch oven on medium heat and begin adding your sugar and spices. I like to use brown sugar and white sugar as well as nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon. You can add a couple teaspoons of lemon juice as well. I always add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, as this tends to intensify the sweetness.

Here is an easy recipe for those who would rather freeze than can their apple butter.


* 5 1/2 pounds apples - peeled, cored and finely chopped
* 4 cups white sugar
* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/4 teaspoon salt


1. Place the apples in a slow cooker. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Pour the mixture over the apples in the slow cooker and mix well.
2. Cover and cook on high 1 hour.
3. Reduce heat to low and cook 9 to 11 hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and dark brown.
4. Uncover and continue cooking on low 1 hour. Stir with a whisk, if desired, to increase smoothness.
5. Spoon the mixture into sterile containers, cover and refrigerate or freeze.

Whatever you do, make sure to take a ride to some beautiful area when the leaves turn this Fall. It is good for the soul to see all the beauty in nature and breathe in that fresh mountain air. Have fun.

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