As a little girl growing up in Michigan, my parents and I would often go to our little local apple orchard in the fall. This place looked like an old, red mill/farmhouse, and during the winter, spring and summer, it looked like a ghost town; but in the fall, when the apples would be ready to be plucked, eaten or pressed, this worn old mill came alive on the weekends with all of the families and young people that came to taste the season in the hot apple cider and warm cinnamon-sugar donuts and apple fritters that they sold. I recall the cool air being marvelously scented with a fried, sweetly-spiced fruitiness, the kind that grabs you straight away when you step out of the car in the parking lot; it’s a warm aroma that has stayed with me in my memories all of these years, one that I will surely never forget as it is so specifically comforting. This was the main reason that I used to love to go and partake in the fall festivities; all of the fall decorations—the multi-colored corn, the blazing orange pumpkins and the wildly shaped, warty gourds—were most definitely a major part of the fun and the experience of that fall wonderland, but it was the promise of the freshly prepared, warm, sweet goodies that I secretly had my heart set on munching away on.
These days, my husband and I, along with our son, make it a point to make a day-trip excursion to our not-so-local apple orchards each year (we live in LA), if at all possible. We go to experience the fall light in all of it’s glory, and to behold all of the colors of the wonderful produce that becomes available. We love to bring back some mementos in the way of a few pumpkins for decorations, as well as fresh-picked apples and other deliciously flavorful edibles to feast on and enjoy for the flavor of the season. Nothing has changed for me when it comes to taking immense pleasure in the sweet, fried, spiced morsels found at these seemingly timeless places. I still make the stop at the donut counter a highlight of my outing; so it only makes sense to bring back a bag or two of freshly picked apples to make my own fall treats to scent up my kitchen, along with some fresh-pressed cider to heat and spike with cinnamon.
To me, the fall just tastes so very good. Perhaps it’s the fiery light of the evenings, the trees so full of big, crunchy leaves that flutter down to the ground and call out to be piled up and jumped into; or all of the hearty, earthy foods that can be enjoyed in so many different ways. Perhaps it’s the fact that I can shortly begin to pull out the sweaters to wrap around myself because they’re finally needed, or it’s the anticipation of licking cinnamon-sugar off of my fingers from making homemade, apple cider hushpuppies. I suspect it’s all of the above, and I plan on enjoying every moment of this season.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Old Mill, Apple Cider Hushpuppies with Cinnamon-Sugar
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(Makes about 24-26 hushpuppies)
¾ cup flour
¾ cup Cream of Wheat
3 tablespoons sugar
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon, heaping, pumpkin pie spice
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup unfiltered apple cider (fresh-pressed style)
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large Honey crisp apple (or 2 small), skin-on and diced very, very small
½ Granny smith apple, skin-on and diced very, very small
• Vegetable or peanut oil for frying (about 3-4 cups)
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• Powdered sugar
• Maple syrup
-In a bowl, add the flour, Cream of Wheat, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and pumpkin pie spice, and whisk together to combine very well; next, add in the beaten egg, the apple cider and the vanilla, and using a spatula, combine the mixture just until well blended, but not overly worked; next, add in the finely diced apples and fold them into the batter until well combined.
-Add the vegetable or peanut oil to a large pot, and heat the oil to 325 degrees; once the oil is hot, begin frying the hushpuppies by dropping scant tablespoonfuls carefully into the hot oil, about 4 hushpuppies per batch; use a slotted spoon (or wire spider) to continually move the hushpuppies around in the hot oil to prevent them from getting too dark on one side, and fry for roughly 2 minutes, or until golden-brown and cooked through in the center; remove the hushpuppies from the oil and place them onto a paper towel-lined baking sheet or bowl to drain; repeat the process until all hushpuppies are fried.
-*In a small dish or ramekin, combine the 2 tablespoons of sugar with the ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon and set side for a moment; next, add the warm hushpuppies to a jumbo-sized Zip Lock bag, sprinkle in the cinnamon-sugar mixture over them and shake the bag to coat the hushpuppies evenly.
-To serve, place the cinnamon-sugar coated hushpuppies onto a platter, and enjoy while still warm.
*For a wonderful, really yummy alternative that is perfect for breakfast, skip the step of coating the hushpuppies in the cinnamon-sugar, and simply serve them warm, sprinkled with some powdered sugar, with some rich maple syrup on the side; it’s a totally different taste, and perfect for kids to dip. (This version’s great with coffee!)
**These are best eaten while warm and fresh, but can be reheated gently for a few minutes at 350 degrees to get some of the “crisp” back.