Wednesday, October 24, 2007

apple pickin' & crackin'

Where'd all those apples come from? Well, two weekends ago I went apple picking for the first time ever. Partner Joe makes an annual trip w his family, along with designfemme and Jeff. In past years, I've had scheduling conflicts, being out of town or playing in a volleyball tournament. This year, I was two weeks out of my cast, and not making any such plans, so I was finally able to join in on the apple safari.

We hit the HoneyPot Hill Orchard in Stow. Still pretty gimptastic, I hung back from climbing and picking and enjoyed watching the kids attack the trees and apples. I carried one of the large bags, which they did a pretty good job of filling. After two or three hours, I think we walked out of there with four bags full of apples. A pretty good haul. Along with Joshua and Alicia, I think Jeff did the most climbing and picking from within the trees.

The kids were crazy for apples. I think Joshua sat on a ladder in one of the trees and went through three of them, fresh off the branch. Alicia took down more than a couple on her own, thrilling us with her elegant and practical technique (she doesn't like the skin, so when she bites thru it, she takes a decent chunk, chews on it until she gets all the meat and sweet of the apple down, and *ptui* ejects the leftover skin bits—if you like, you can see her skills over at designfemme's place).

A couple years back I discovered that I'm allergic to apples, so I refrained from sampling any of the goods. Apples, apples, everywhere, and not a drop to drink... Or something...

At one point along our safari, I picked up a grounded apple, wanting to test something. Years ago—I think it was back when I was in high school—my mom showed me how she could split apples with her bare hands. Pretty frickin cool, and impressed all my sister's and my friends. I don't remember exactly how/when I learned to do it myself, but I eventually did. I couldn't recall the last time I'd done it, tho, and was curious to see if I still could, especially with the lame arm. So, I grabbed the apple w both hands, turned it around a bit until it somehow felt right, dug my palms in a little, pulled my hands apart, and *POP!* Split the apple!

Hrmmm... Perhaps the apples DECIDED to make themselves poisonous to me... in retalition for the development of my freakish talent as a threat to their existence...?

I think I cracked a half dozen or so before I realized that anyone had noticed. Joshua and Alicia weren't all that impressed, or perhaps were too hopped up on apples to focus, but the "adults" were asking me, basically, WTF? A few apple picking passersby stopped to ask and try as well. So, I held an impromptu apple-crackin' seminar with them. It turned out not to be something I could easily explain. You *can* power it, break an apple in half with just brute strength, but the way I was doing it gives you two apple halves with a flat clean split surface, and doesn't require a lot of sustained effort. I told them that I turned the apple in my hands to find a particular position. By feel, it seems to be a combination of symmetry and best purchase for my palms and fingers on the surface. The best result, I think, happens when you've found one of probably several best planes in the apple to break it, probably determined by the shape of the core, y'know?

Eh, that's just guessing. Perhaps a farmer would have some kind of real know-how about it. For me, it really is just a feeling of it being in a "sweet spot" of a position in my hands. I think you've gotta just try it.

I talked to my mom soon after the orchard trip and she was surprised and happy to hear about my apple crackin' prowess. When I asked, she said that she just picked up the skill as a child. I sorta remember her, from when she first showed me, telling me that it was a convenient skill, one that would let you share an apple with a friend. I also figured it kinda made them easier to chomp into. The apples, not the friends. She said that she thought that a lot of her friends, and probably a lot of people who grew up near farmland or in the countryside and rural areas in general, would know how to do it. I have yet to meet anyone who can already do this, or even anyone who's seen or heard of anyone being able to do this.

Anyhow, by the end of our orchard romp, both Jeff and Joe were splittin apples easily enough, and I hear tell that since then designfemme too has joined the ranks of the apple crackers. If you'd like to watch some actual apple crackin', dfemme's got a video posted of a demonstration of my freakish ability.

Now, how to harness this power for good?

I hope to work my way up to human head-sized produce... =)

Keep on keepin on~

p.s. I like apples. While cookin up my apple pie, extreme sportsman that I am, I decided to sample some of the goods. (I made sure I had some benadryl nearby.) Turns out, whereas a bite or two from a peeled grocery store-bought apple triggered an allergic reaction within a minute, first one slice, then another, of apples picked at the orchard went down sweetly and fine. No respiratory hinkiness, itchiness, or other allergic signs. What does this mean? Unless HoneyPot Hill does or doesn't do something to their apples that most orchards do, then something happens to apples between the orchard and the market that messes w the chemistry and causes an allergic reaction for me. Note that I am fine with processed or cooked apples, i.e. pie, crisp, juice, cider. So cooking and/or other chemical changes will remove whatever allergic agent is present. I shall hafta investigate organic or farmers' market options. Anyone else experienced this difference in reaction to apples? I've also had a similar allergic reaction to store-bought cherries, which I never went out of my way for, and so don't miss so much.


design femme said...

I figured something else that helped me with the apple crackin': listening for the point it "gives". In other words, when I was toying with the apple, I could hear an ever-so-slight separation beneath the skin. At that point, I knew I could split away the two hemispheres.

I dunno how to describe it. It sounds like a slight suction, y'know what I'm saying?

cabinboy said...

I think I get what you're talkin bout, although I think I feel it more than hear it. I don't think I walked outta the orchard with quite as many apples as everyone else, so, wanting to have enough supplies for pie-making and such, I don't have any disposable just-for-crackin apples on hand to test. Maybe I'll make a point of picking some up on my next supermarket run. Last time, I noticed that they had bags of orchard-picked apples for sale, shipped in from some local farm or other, in bags with the farm brand on them. I'll be sure to let you know if I do. =)