by Paula Deen
With the weather getting as crisp as the apples, I start reminiscing about the harvest festivals from the good ol’ days. They usually took place in barns that seemed big enough to build a city in. Us kids would sit on scratchy bales of hay and chew on caramel apples, watching our mommas and daddies twirl and dance to the live music. Our grandmothers stood watch over the tables weighted down with the most mouth waterin’ spread of apple pies you could ever imagine, protecting them until the judges—our granddaddies—could determine whose pie would win the blue ribbon.
Now I know that times have changed. Many of our children and grandchildren have never stepped foot in a barn, let alone set their behinds on a bale of hay. They think fresh apple cider is something you buy off a store shelf in a plastic jug. But even if the kids act like they don’t give one plug nickel about the harvest, you can have them singing a different tune by planning a fall festival of your very own. You see, I figure that any tradition that brings family, food and fun together is worth resurrectin’. So I’m going whole hog by throwing a festival complete with games, music and comforting dishes—and I invite you to do the same.
My family loves any excuse for horseplay. I can just imagine Jamie and Bobby getting soaked clear down to their underwear during the apple-bobbing contest, and my grandbaby Jack cuttin’ a rug with his momma as soon as the music starts up. I’m sure the whole family will have a good laugh when Michael and I try our luck at the three-legged race, especially since we have a hard enough time getting by on our own two legs!
Along with the fun and games, home cooked dishes made with the season’s finest fruits and vegetables are at the heart of any Harvest Festival. I’m salivating just thinking of the recipes that I’m fixin’ to make, especially those that feature beautiful handpicked apples. Baked Apples, Slow Cooker Apple Onion Soup and Apple Charlotte are some of my favorites that I hope you’ll try. And let me tell you, that store-bought cider can’t hold a candle to my delicious Spiced Lemon Apple Cider recipe. There’s nothing better on a crisp fall day, and one cup of that sweetness will absolutely warm your soul.
Finally, if I’m throwing this Harvest Festival, I sure as heck plan on winning the prize for my Apple Butter Apple Pie. I did that recipe a couple of years ago for my friends over at Smithfield and it’s out of this world. Now I don’t mean to brag, but it’s to die for, and should win first place at any festival or fall bake sale. And if it don’t? Well, I suppose there’s always the three-legged race. Happy fall y’all, it’s the perfect time of year for a party!
Paula’s Favorite Apple Recipes
Grandgirl’s Fresh Apple Cake from Georgia
Moppin Chicken Stuffed with Brie and Apples
Smokey Apple Cinnamon Meatloaf
Apple and Grilled Chicken Pizza
Outrageous Caramel Apples
Donna’s Candied Apples
Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Casserole