23 October 2006


Yesterday we went to a cider-pressing party.

You’ve heard of barn raisers, right? Well, my neighbor two doors up, Marianne, has a small organic apple orchard and every year she gathers up friends to help her press her harvest into cider. Although I’ve been invited in the past, this was the first year I was able to join. Anthony’s been hankering to make his own hard cider. Now he has four gallons of fresh-pressed juice to play with.

I’m actually not that fond of cider, and the work left me with aching muscles by the time we ended (after dark, working by lanterns). But the cider wasn’t my motivation. (I didn’t even bring any home.) What I like is being part of a community, working together to feed each other and help each other out.

I like knowing my neighbors, being there for each other. Marianne knows that, if she needs, she can call me and I’ll take care of her dog. The up-the-hill neighbors ask me to take care of their chickens when they are gone. When one of Farmer John’s cows get loose, I call him up, then go out to the cow, helping to keep her out of the road and to herd her home. When Larry called to say his wife had been seeing a white cat in their field, I went over to investigate. (My white Paquito Cat was missing.) Realizing that the cat was quite domestic, and that it probably had come across the creek from the houses behind Larry’s field, I called Pam. Indeed, it was her cat.

Lest I sound like the only one who helps out, let me state quite clearly that I am blessed with generous neighbors, as well. The neighbors one property south give me fresh salmon fillets and fresh cooked (and cleaned) crab from their first catch every season. The first time I went over to Larry’s to buy eggs, he loaded me up with veggies from his garden. Marianne invites me every year to Christmas dinner. The up-the-hill neighbors insist that I am not to buy any tools, but should borrow theirs if a need arises. Wayne, local king of the heavy equipment, brought over a load of broken concrete so that I could build a little patio in my garden. Greg, my tenant/neighbor (I own a detached duplex) and I swap cat care.

We all wave at each other when passing in our cars. And we stop to talk over the fences, in the middle of the road… .

I remember, years ago, my ex and I were discussing our ideal home. He wanted remote rural. While I love the quiet and the connection with nature that remote rural offers, I was adamant – I wanted neighbors. Not adjoining walls. Not in-my-face city living. But neighbors. Community. And I have that. What a blessing.

So, in honor of apples and community, here’s my favorite recipe for Apple Pie. Note that it is sugar free! I’m assuming you know how to make a pie, so this is just a list of ingredients.
2 cups unbleached white flour
2/3 cup butter
6 to 7 Tablespoons milk

In a small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup raisins and 3/4 cup water to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Drain off the excess water and combine raisins with:
7 or 8 cooking apples (I like Gravensteins best for pies)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons unbleached white flour
1 generous teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon each of ground ginger and cloves

Assemble as you normally would, then bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until the crust is browned and the fruit is tender.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream. (Anthony takes a pint of heavy cream, puts it in a jar with a bit of vanilla and maple syrup, then shakes it up until it thickens into whipped cream. This is pretty dang nice in your morning coffee, too… maybe with a slice of pie?)

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