Apple picking ripens awareness



An annual fall outing to the apple orchard is a fun way for families to kick off the New Year. The tart, juicy apples are as crisp as the autumn air, and with each bite I taste the new season. Whenever I go apple picking I feel like a kid again. I also seem to lose my table manners. Where else can I gnaw on a piece of fruit and nonchalantly drop the rotten core at my feet? Likewise, I abandon all sense of safety when I ride the bumpy tractor-pulled wagon and fling a half-eaten apple across the gravel road.

Even though an early frost killed many of the local crops this year, my heavy bags are filled with plenty of yellow, red, and green apples. No wonder I cook gallons of applesauce by the time the pumpkins ripen.

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For people who are poor and hungry, however, the apple season is not always so sweet and bountiful. At a recent field trip with some of our temple members to Eckert’s Country Farm in Belleville, Ill., families learned why the act of sharing our harvest is a mitzvah. After we pay for our apples, our group gathers under a red and white striped tent to prepare yummy apple crisps for the Jewish Food Pantry.

As the adults and kids work together to peel the skins, measure cups of brown sugar, and chop the apples, we carry out the mitzvot of “peah, leket and shich’chach.” According to Jewish traditions, we are supposed to leave a corner of the field to be gleaned by the widows, orphans, and poor. When we assemble the crumb-topped apple treats in aluminum pans with lids, we understand in a tangible way how this mitzvot to leave the gleanings actually feeds the hungry.

In fact, the Torah contains a number of mitzvot to allow the poor to benefit from the agricultural yield of the landowners. For example, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger.” (Leviticus 19:9-10).

Here’s some favorite apple recipes to share with family, friends, neighbors, and local food banks.


4 pounds very red baking apples

1 lemon

handful of Red Hot candies (for color and taste)

1 cup apple juice, cider or water

honey or maple syrup to taste

Cut the apples and lemon in quarters. Place in a heavy pot with the Red Hots. Add the apple juice, cider or water.

Cover the pot, bring to a boil, and then simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally to turn the apples and make sure they don’t stick. You may want to add some more liquid. Cook about 20 minutes, or until the apples are soft. Let cool slightly.

Put the sauce through a food processor and adjust the flavor by adding honey or maple syrup to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Apple Crisp Filling:

5 to 6 tart apples (Granny Smith) peeled, cored and cut into three-fourth inch thick slices. (If you use sweet apples you can add a tsp. of lemon juice to cut down on sweetness).

2 T granulated sugar

2 T lightly packed brown sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

one fourth tsp. nutmeg

2 T unsalted butter, melted


three fourth cup plus 2 T all-purpose flour

one fourth cup plus 2 T old-fashioned oatmeal

one fourth cup plus 3 T granulated sugar

one fourth cup plus 3 T lightly packed brown sugar

12 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and slightly softened

Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, toss apple slices with both sugars and the spices. Let sit for 20 minutes or until the apples release some juice and the sugar is moist.

Meanwhile, combine flour, oatmeal, and both sugars for the topping in a bowl and mix well with your fingertips, crumbling any lumps. Add the butter and work the mixture gently until it resembles coarse crumbs. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Transfer the apples with their juices to a one-quart casserole. Pour the melted butter over the apples. Sprinkle the topping evenly over them. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Serve warm. Serves 4 to 6.

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Currently, she is obsessing over her son’s upcoming bar mitzvah, so please feel free to send any advice to: [email protected] or visit her website at