Sunday, October 10, 2010

Last weekend we held our 4th annual apple pressing and harvest party.  We had 7 friends come in to stay from out of town and with their help, we took this fun event to new heights.

First off, we hit upon the idea of serving appletinis.  I have no idea why it took us 4 years to figure this out, but I sure am glad we did.  I looked up online some recipes for apple martinis; then, armed with these recipes, set out for the liquor store.  I bought all the ingredients for all the recipes, printed up the recipes onto one piece of paper, and set everything out on a 'serve yourself' table.  Hands down the caramel apple martini was the favorite of the day.  The butterscotch schnapps used to make it was the only liquor we ran out of.  I'll definitely be getting another bottle of that stuff!  Someone mentioned it was good in hot cocoa and with winter approaching...

We had 20 people this year, our largest gathering yet.  No doubt due to our friends who drove and flew in from Montana and California and -- where is Mikey from anyway? -- Oregon/Washington/Alaska.  For the first year since we moved here, we had no apples from our trees.  Well, we had a very few but the dog ate them as they fell prematurely from the trees.  So I had to drive over to Wenatchee the weekend prior to pick up apples for the party.  A couple other people brought some as well, so we ended up with plenty.

Our out-of-town friends came in the day before and we put them right to work.  Barb and Mikey helped with the decorating.

Then there is the added benefit of the allure of the riding mower for city folk.  

After a quick lesson from Jim, MaryAnne is raring to go!

And the next thing ya know, the south 40 is mowed and it's time to move on to more 'pressing' matters.  (Get it?)

First the apples go into the hopper thingie.  (I'm going to give it to you in technical terms.)

I'm the one hard at work with a caramel appletini in my hand.

Next the mushed up apples get put into the press.  Muscle is required at this juncture.

Apple juice!

But we're not done yet.  Many hands make light work when it comes to bottling.  Some are in the kitchen rinsing and sterilizing bottles, some are funneling juice, and some are flaked out on the couch shirking their duties.

(Just kidding.  This photo was taken at the end of the night.)

Once the apples are all pressed and things are cleaned up, it's time to admire our efforts and then get down to the business of dinner.
Some of us didn't want to miss the game, so set up ringside seats just outside the tv room.
Some of us were more civilized and social.
 This is my attempt at an artsy photo to get everyone in the picture.  Or maybe this is my attempt at an artsy photo after too many appletinis.

A great time was had by all, due in no small part to the appletinis, great friends, and delicious food.

Caramel Appletinis

2 parts butterscotch schnapps
2 parts sour apple pucker
1 park vodka

Mix in a cocktail mixer with ice; then pour through the strainer into martini glasses.  We rented martini glasses for this party.  Small expense, big impact, so much fun! 

Apple Wild Rice Salad
This recipe is from my friend Jill Engstrom.

6 cups chicken broth
1 cup uncooked wild rice
4 cups apple, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 tablespoons green onions, chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sesame oil
2 cups pecans, finely chopped

Bring the broth to a boil.  Add the rice, bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook until just tender (maybe about an hour).  Drain well.

Transfer the rice to a large bowl.  Mix in the apples, peppers, and green onions.

In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil.  Drizzle over the salad and toss to coat.  Season with fresh pepper.  Mix the nuts into the salad just before serving, reserving a few to sprinkle on top.  Feeds a whole bunch of people.
Caramel Apple Cookies

1 cup butter
2-2/3 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 or 2 teaspoons cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups apples, chopped fine or grated
2 cups raisins or golden raisins
1/2 cup apple juice or cider
2 cups chopped or broken walnuts

Cream the sugar and butter together; then add eggs and cream.  Mix well.  Add in the dry ingredients and mix lightly.  Stir in the apples, raisins, and walnuts.  You can decrease the juice and/or add in extra flour or oatmeal to get the right consistency.  I have never needed to change anything when I make this.  Refrigerate for at least one hour before baking.  This step will firm up the dough considerably.
Drop onto greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 12 minutes.  Let cool before frosting.

Caramel Frosting

Melt together 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup brown sugar.  Do not burn but allow it to get a little brown for flavor.  Mix in 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 2-1/2 teaspoons light cream or evaporated milk.  I usually use evaporated milk because that's what I usually have on hand.  Frost the cookies while the frosting is still warm.  You may want to double the frosting or add more cream, depending on how thick you like your frosting.  It's really sweet.  I thin it out and drizzle it on in a pattern.  Pretty!