Thursday, October 8, 2009

Apple Picking Time

This past Sunday a group of the Green Muslims had the opportunity to get out of the city and participate in the traditional autumn activity of apple picking. Having grown up in the Midwest, I (Alhumdulilah) had the opportunity of going on family trips to the orchard and nearby farms to celebrate the season of harvest. One of my fond memories as a child is of spending an entire weekend in the process of apples. There was an orchard behind my grandfather’s farm in Wisconsin and I remember picking the apples in the morning with all my aunts, uncles and cousins and then spending the rest of the day peeling, and cutting and juicing and canning apples into many different delicious appley-end products.

As I watched the trees slowly turn color and the air slowly grow more crisp and cool as I walked to work each day in the city, I felt the urge to escape the busy day-to -day schedule that I’ve created for myself here in DC, and head out to the country to revisit those childhood experiences.

With help from friends and gracious hosting by Kevin and Munjed, the day was soon planned.

I woke with little effort the morning of, even though it was an hour or so before I normally would have. I was motivated by the promise of Belgian waffles and a breakfast gathering of new and old friends alike. Earlier in the week I had sent out an email asking if anyone wanted to come along with me to an orchard in Virginia. After receiving an overwhelming response of over 22 people, the event basically planned itself. As we all crammed into Kevin and Munjed’s apartment and feasted on the potluck breakfast, we started off with introductions and I learned that over half the people there had never been apple picking before (I also learned what kind of animal they would want to be as that was the other icebreaker question).

The orchard was only an hour drive away through the hills of Virginia. Though the leaves had not reached their peak colors, the drive was amazingly beautiful and a perfect prelude to a day in the country. The farther we got from the city, the clearer the sky seemed to get. The closer we got to the orchard, the slower time seemed to move. Perhaps it is the schedule I’ve created for myself, or perhaps it’s just the culture of DC, but one of the things I’ve noticed is that people have stopped noticing things around them. People don’t comment on the weather unless it is to complain about the heat or remind a coworker to take an umbrella in case of the notorious DC showers. People literally do not stop to smell the roses, or the other hundreds other flowering plants that grace DC’s streets. Even though our surroundings are so abundant with gifts, it takes a day’s sabbatical to allow us to count the blessings we do have.

The orchard helped remind me of those blessings. It reminded me of all the friends I have who jumped at the opportunity to share the day together. It reminded me of the blessings of being able to exit the city and experience a new environment, a blessing that perhaps not all of my neighbors can enjoy. It reminded me of the miraculous Earth that God created with nutrients and ingredients to sustain mankind. It reminded me of the blessings of my childhood and the blessings of my family.

Together with the other DC Green Muslims I enjoyed learning about the different apples and terrains on which they grow. We picked bushels and bushels to bring back to the city. We purchased cider and apple butter and learned of the different flavors of honey that come frome the orchard depending on which field the bees visit. We learned what poison ivy looked like, but (Inshallah) avoided learning what it feels like.

Soon our time there came to an end, and a group gathered together to pray noon prayers on top of a hill that overlooked much of the farm. As we gave our supplications to our Creator, we were reminded of how close we are to the rest of His creation. As we whispered the chapters of the Quran, the trees whispered along with us. As we bowed our heads in the grass, it bowed along with us as it tickled our faces. As we thanked our Creator for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us, it felt as if the entire Earth was in sync.

Below I’ve shared a number of Apple recipes that my mom gave me for all those who, like me, still have an enormous amount of apples at home.

APPLESAUCE For 1 Quart (approximately)
Wash and quarter 8-10 large apples, take out the seedy core- and peel the apples if you want it smooth (leave peel if you want the best nutrition and don’t mind chewing or if you have access to a blender to puree it after cooking).
Place in sauce pan, cover partially with water (about 3/4 cup).
Add a pinch of salt and a slice of lemon (opt.)
Cook until tender by stirring every few minutes. Puree, or leave chunky
Return to heat and add cinnamon to taste. Cook until thickened.
APPLE PIE SHAKE
From an Appleland Orchard, Belgium, WI
For a single serving, in a blender combine:
1cup of vanilla ice cream
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 apple
a shake of cinnamon and/or nutmeg and/or cloves and/or ginger
Pour into a glass and enjoy.

APPLE BUTTER-
Place 1 quart of applesauce in a heavy bottomed (cast iron) pot and continue cooking over low heat for several hours until the sauce turns brown. Stir often so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
Variation:
Cook with the apples-
2 cups of apple juice/cider (instead of the water when making the applesauce)
1/2 cup of honey
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon of all spice
dash of salt
juice & grated rind of a lemon
Apple Butter will be fine refrigerated for up to 2 months or you can freeze or can it.
A no-fuss, no-stir way to cook the apple butter down would be to use a slow cooker, on a slow boil, with the lid ajar, overnight. (protect the surrounding counter top from sticky splashes with towels)


NO COOK APPLESAUCE
2 tablespoons fruit juice (lemon, orange, lime, apple)
3 apples, washed, cored, unpeeled
2 tablespoons of honey
Sprinkle of cinnamon, (optional)
Wash, peel and cut apples into chunks. Blend juice and one apple in blender, add remaining apples, seasonings and blend again. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Remember to say “Bismillah!”

1 comment:

abucasem said...

I am proud and honered to call you My Sarrah.
Dad