October 5, 1999
by Lee Edwards
John Chapman became a legendary folk hero living a life similar to that of the current preacher during the early 1880’s of America’s pioneer settlement. But, before he retired to his solitary life of traveling from town to town preaching God’s word he played an important role in the war of 1812; he ran sixty miles through the trackless forest to get reinforcements which saved the garrison at Mansfield, Ohio from massacre.
The episode at Mansfield was a typical display of Johnny’s character known by many of the frontier settlers who had been, at one time or another, saved during one of his timely interventions to warn them of impending Indian raids. The frontier man grew to expect Johnny’s coming around toting his Bible just as they had expected the circuit preacher to do so but for reasons which were altogether different. You see, John was like President Jefferson, an avid gardener having the same zealousness with a slight difference. John walked barefoot for forty years through the untamed countryside of Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois planting apple seed he carried in a deerskin bag hanging from his shoulder.
They called him Johnny Appleseed. He was well loved by the Indians and settlers alike. He followed behind covered wagons on the trails starting apple seed nurseries by river banks and beside cabins. Anywhere he could find a soft damp place to plant a seed, he did so. He came up against bears, wildcats, wolves, and rattlesnakes continuously without having or using a gun for protection. Farmers as far away as Iowa can still point out apple trees sprung from the seed Johnny had given to settlers.
Johnny would make a point of returning to the nurseries he started to care for them. He was sometimes paid and sometimes his pay would be in the form of second-hand clothing or a sack of cornmeal. He was not only legendary for his “American as Apple Pie” orchards, he was a patron of the poor. Johnny gave what little money he amassed to the hungry and needy Americans wherever and whenever he met them.
Apples are members of the rose family; many fruits are. They are regarded as symbols of American ideals and virtues which exemplify John Chapman’s idealistic quest for putting one into every home of his “American Dream.”
The fruits from the saplings he planted gave birth to many regional dishes of that era which we still enjoy today. Apple juices, ciders, vinegars and wines are a part of our daily lives. Louisa May Alcott named her home in honor of one of those apple dishes; perhaps you remember her as being the creator of our beloved Little Women. And, perhaps she was envisioning the seed of a rose (love apple) while thinking of an apple when she said, “Love is a great beautifier.”
The beauty of apple orchards in bloom monumentally proclaims Johnny Appleseed’s love for God, his country, and homeless, hungry Americans searching for their piece of the great “pie.”
Apple Slump (a favorite of Louisa May Alcott)
6 cupfuls of apples, cored, pared, and sliced
1 cupful of sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoonful of nutmeg
1/2 cup of water
1-1/2 cupfuls of all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoonful of salt
1-1/2 teaspoonfuls of baking powder
1/2 cup of milk
Place the apple slices, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and water in a saucepan. Mix them well and cover the pan with a lid. Heat the mixture to boiling. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and stir in the milk a little at a time to make a soft dough (various fresh or frozen berries can be added to the dough). Drop tablespoonfuls of the dough into the apple mixture. Cover the pan. Cook the slump over low heat for thirty minutes. Serve this dessert warm topped with a rich cream.
Raspberried Apple Cider
8 cupfuls of apple cider or juice
1 10 ounce package of frozen raspberries
14 inch stick of cinnamon
8 sticks of cinnamon for stirring and garnish
1-1/2 teaspoonfuls of whole clove
1 medium sized apple cut into 8 wedges
Combine the apple cider, a four inch cinnamon stick, cloves, and raspberries into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Cover the pan and simmer the cider for ten minutes. Remove it from the heat and strain the cider through a cheesecloth.
Serve the cider warm in glass containers garnishing each serving with a cinnamon stick and an apple wedge in the glass.
Mark Twain’s Mush Apple Pie
2 nine-inch unbaked pastry shells
1 large jar of applesauce
cinnamon, or nutmeg
Pour applesauce into a pie shell and sprinkle it with cinnamon. Use the pastry from the pie shell to cover the pie. Seal the edges and crimp them. Slash the top of the pie in several places for ventilation. Bake the pie in a preheated oven at 450o for twenty minutes. Reduce the heat to 375o and bake 25 minutes more until the crust is nicely browned. May be served with whipped cream as a topping.
1 cupful of milk
1/2 cupful of yellow cornmeal
1-1/3 cupful of molasses
1/4 cupful of sugar
1/2 teaspoonful ground ginger
1/2 teaspoonful of ground cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cupful of diced dried apples.
Combine milk, cornmeal, and margarine in a medium sized saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil stirring constantly. Reduce the heat. Cover the pan and cook the mixture over a low heat for five minutes. Remove it from the heat and add the molasses, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Mix well. Combine the eggs and milk, stir it and the apples into the cornmeal mixture. Transfer the mixture to a 1-quart baking dish.
Bake the pudding for about an hour and fifteen minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve the pudding topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with cinnamon.
Whipped Cream (makes 3 cupfuls)
2/3 cupful of Pet milk, chilled
1 teaspoonful of lemon juice
2 tablespoonfuls of sugar
1 teaspoonful of vanilla
Pour the chilled milk into a chilled mixing bowl. Add lemon juice, sugar and vanilla. Whip until stiff with chilled beaters.
4 cooking apples, sliced into rings
2 tablespoonfuls of butter
1/3 cupful of brown sugar
dash of cinnamon
Melt the butter in a skillet and add the slices of apples. Cover the pan and cook the apples slowly; for about 10 minutes. Remove the cover and sprinkle the apples with cinnamon and brown sugar. Continue cooking the apples a few minutes more until they have browned.