When I was a kid, there weren’t many apple trees around Hayward, Wisconsin, and most of the few I knew of were crabapple trees. My father said that our winters were too cold for most apple trees, but that crabapples could survive cold temperatures better, which may explain the big crabapple tree in my Grandma Hopp’s yard.
There were a few apple trees, of course. Some were planted by farmers who lucked into a variety that would grow in a place where thirty-five-degrees-below-zero winter days were common. Others were “wild” trees seeded by birds or people that chanced to have the hardiness demanded by northern Wisconsin.
We picked good apples from an old tree on the “Munger place,” one of the many deserted farms a few miles from our home. The only traces of the farm were the stone foundations and small piles of lumber discarded when someone tore down the buildings, a lilac bush, a small field and the apple tree that bore sweet red apples in years when the blossoms didn’t freeze.
Many years later while hunting for brook trout along the Marengo River I came across another deserted farmstead with an apple tree. Located high above and a quarter mile distant from the river, the site had clearly been chosen because there was a spring in a dale on the hillside. The spring filled a small tank formed by logs sunk in the ground. A few yards away was a dilapidated tree with big apples on the few branches which had not been broken off by bears harvesting the fruit. For a dozen years I made a point of stopping in late summer for an apple on my way through the forest to the river. They were juicy and sweet.
“Wild” apple trees are fairly common today in northern Wisconsin. There is one along Highway 63 just a few miles from our cabin, but the apples don’t have much flavor. You will find quite a few apple trees growing in the ditches along town roads near Mason, Wisconsin, and some of those apples are pretty tasty. I speak from experience.
When I was in college, some friends and I found a deserted orchard near Mole Lake, Wisconsin, that supplied us with apples for some very satisfactory pies that I wrote about several years ago. You will find a good recipe for Double Crust Apple Pie in that essay.
The apple tree in our yard produces a fair crop every other year. We don’t spray, so we have to cut away the worm holes, but the apples make good pies, cakes and breads.
Jerri found this recipe for a wonderful apple bread in Lynda Kochevar’s food column, “In the Kitchen,” in the Pioneer Press. In answer to a reader’s question, Lynda suggested that the reader try this recipe with cinnamon and chopped apples. She said that the recipe was from The Church Supper Cookbook edited by David Joachim.
It’s really good.
4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup cooking oil
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups chopped apples
1 cup chopped nuts
Peel and core enough apples to produce two cups of apples chopped into about a half-inch dice. Chop a cup of raw walnuts or pecans into about a quarter-inch dice. Set the chopped apples and nuts aside in a small bowl.
Preheat the oven to 350º and grease and flour two loaf pans.
Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a medium-sized bowl and set it aside. Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl until they are lemon yellow, add the sugar, oil, sour cream and vanilla and continue beating until you have a smooth liquid.
Stir in the flour mixture by thirds to make a thick batter. Fold in the apples and nuts, and spoon the batter into the prepared pans.
Bake one hour and test for doneness with a toothpick inserted near the center of each loaf. If the toothpick comes out clean, the bread is done. If it does not, bake another four or five minutes and test again.
NOTES: You can use either 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch or 5 by 9-inch pans. I have only one of the smaller size so I make two different sized loaves in each batch. They both turn out fine.