By Gini Rainey
My apple tree is dead! My husband delivered the tragic news to me this morning. This news was given to me following the death announcement of his sunset maple tree. They shared the same bed – the maple and the apple. I suggested that perhaps there is something toxic about the bed, and he, not so subtly, allowed that the culprit might have been the apples that had dropped to the ground and rotted. That just doesn’t sound quite right to me. Seems to me that maple would have been one happy little camper sucking up all that fermented apple goodness over the years.
Why, you might be asking, was this apple tree so important to me? Well, being a transplanted Minnesotan, I keep trying to grow things in our yard that I grew up around and miss, like lilacs, rhubarb, peonies, and apple trees. It took me years to finally get my husband to relent and let me plant a granny smith apple tree in the yard of our previous home. Well, as luck would have it, that tree got taken out during one of our famous Texas ice storms when a huge pine tree branch landed on top of it and completely pulverized it. There was literally no visible trace left of that tree! The event occurred right before Christmas and my absolutely shock of it completely disappearing like that impacted our grandchildren so much that they decided the best gift to give me that year was another granny smith apple tree. We were in the middle of moving to a new house at the time, so it stayed in a pot until we were able to eventually plant it. That was sixteen years ago.
What does any of this have to do with a cookbook blog? (Here comes a really convolute segue!) Well, when I was eleven, my mom and I took a trip to New York City and Washington, D.C. and one of our stops was Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. This is an amazingly lovely place and absolutely reeks of history. If you are ever anywhere close, be sure you take a tour of the estate, you won’t regret it. So, it just seemed like a great idea to purchase The Mount Vernon Cookbook that I found at an estate sale. Compiled by The Founders, Washington Committee for Historic Mount Vernon and published by The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union in 1987, this 244 page cookbook has some lovely color photographs of Mount Vernon, but lacks recipes from the Washington era. The disclaimer “No attempt has been made in The Mount Vernon Cookbook to transcribe the early receipts used by Mrs. Washington,” is in the introduction. Rather, the recipes make use of ingredients that would have been available to the 18th century cook and many of them have been handed down through generations to the contributors of the cookbook.
It has a recipe for Apple Pancakes that is very similar to the one my mom used (making excellent use of the apples from our trees), as well as the one I use. To make them, mix and sift 1 ½ cup flour, 1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder, ¾ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and ¼ cup sugar. Combine with 1 large, well-beaten egg, 1 cup milk, ¼ cup melted butter or margarine, and 1 cup finely chopped apples (I use granny smith’s for a little bit of tartness that goes so well with maple syrup – and I also grate them). Do not over mix the batter. Bake on a hot greased griddle – or frying pan – and serve with warm maple syrup. This is sooooo good and yummy!