Fredericksburg Peaches. Peaches with a capital peach. Peaches harvested at just the right moment and rushed by pickup truck to roadside stands. You don't have to see the handmade signs to know when they arrive.
You can smell 'em at five hundred paces. I always carried five bucks during the season, so that when I changed buses on the way home from work, and that smell would hit me. I could grab a bag of peaches.
In New York, I have come to anticipate apple season in the same way. You can tell when the local apples begin to arrive. They're the ones that look like they fell off the tree. They haven't been groomed and waxed like runway models. They are not glossy. They do not gleam under the lights to catch your eye. They are dull and spotted, but they don't give a damn, for what they may lack in supermarket style is far outweighed by their substance.
Not to mention their flavor.
This fall I am having a fling with the Cortland variety, which seduced me as I walked past the sidewalk produce stand outside my favorite grocery. The stands you always check first, if you're smart. Forget the shiny, overpriced imports inside. The Cortlands first impressed me with sheer size, whopping great baking apples of a type I recall from childhood, but hadn't seen in decades. Sometimes I think I am the only home baker in the city. I have returned to buy more Cortlands, suspicious that this is a renegade lot, escaped to the outer borough rather than snatched up by some executive chef to be turned into glorious confections designed to tempt the city into handing over the AmEx Black just to be permitted to gaze at a two-bite portion, let alone eat it.
I turned that first enticing Cortland into water. When white tights season moves in and takes over, there is no more lemonade. No more iced tea, not even made with honey. Cucumber/mint infusions are fine for summer, but you have to stay hydrated in cooler weather, too. An apple/cinnamon infusion is perfect, and the Cortland has the perfect amount of sweetness to set off the cinnamon.
The dancer who would toss the pitcher back in the fridge all but empty will make sure it stays full with this combination. I still do the recharging with fresh slices and cinnamon sticks, but it's nice to see the stuff doing its intended job.
The Cortland sweetness means no added sugar for baking. Nothing spectacular around here, just a humble apple crisp. Chopped apples baked with a topping of gluten-free flour, quick oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter. The simplest of recipes, yet it reduces the tension level in the house significantly. This is no mean feat when everyone is in high gear for the fall season.
This is something I do when I'm not peeling apples. Make big batches of gluten-free flour to keep on hand, and measure out snack packs. When the bars have been baked, pack them four to a quart-sized bag so they can be grabbed on the way out the door.