Friday, October 25, 2013

Apple Houses


The definition of Fall in the South is: Pansies, Chrysanthemums, Autumn leaves and football. I have to add apples to the list. Mountain apples to be specific, not the big shiny chain store apples, but the small, imperfect and wonderfully fragrant apples from the mountains of East Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia.

Apple Orchard (photo from my cousin Becky)

Picking Apples (photo from Donald Leonard Johnson)
"We use to go to the orchard after they were finished picking and get sacks of apples. My dad would take the wagon and horses and we would haul around 40 bussels of all kinds and make a big copper kettle full of apple butter. Mom would can it in quart jars. Our family was so big we ate a quart at a time. Mom would make ginger bread and cover it with apple butter. We were poor but we ate great. " DLJ

Apple House in Wise County Virginia (photo from Google Maps)

In the Fall, as I drive through the country side, I always watch for little stores or markets by the roadside with baskets of apples for sale. One of my favorite memories of Southwest Virginia is of the the apple houses on Coeburn Mountain Road. These are small barn-like buildings filled with baskets of apples. They are so fragrant that the smell alone is worth the trip. However, don't leave empty handed.

Apples, ready to be made into pies, fried apples, apple sauce and apple butter
These apples are fron Winchester, Virginia. This is where my Milburn ancestors lived from 1743 until Jonathan Milburn and his brother William H. came to Tennessee just before Tennessee became a state. The Milburns were Quakers and many of the Quaker families in Frederick County had apple orchards. Soldiers were known to walk to the high ridge north and west of town, where they could purchase and eat apple pies made by the Quakers. The ridge became known as Apple Pie Ridge. The Ridge Road built before 1751 leading north from town was renamed Apple Pie Ridge Rd. The local farmers found booming business in feeding the Virginia Militia and fledgling volunteer American army.

Apple pie right out of the oven

I don't really have a recipe for apple pie. I just cut clean apples with an apple slicer. You can peel them, but I don't. Slice about 6 small apples and put in a large bowl. Add some brown sugar, cinnamon and a tablespoon or so of flour. How much flour depends on how much juice is in the apples, so you may decide to add a little more or less. Add a tablespoon or so of butter. Stir together and pour into an uncooked pie shell. Add the top crust and seal the edges. Be sure to cut a vent in the top of the pie. I cut an apple. Can you tell? Bake for ten minutes at 400º, then reduce the temperature to 350º and bake about 45 more minutes until the crust is done.