LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
By the time I’d finished high school, the orchards were essentially too uncared for and too overgrown to be productive. The trees were old and already susceptible to disease and insects when Pap was still alive. Dad and some of my uncles and older cousins tended them for perhaps a dozen years, but they eventually became unworthy of the effort.
But while they were still living, they provided all the apples that several families could use.
In their prime, during the 20s and 30s, they had also provided an important cash crop to Pap’s subsistence farm.
My mom and most of my aunts made apple butter, apple jelly, apple sauce and canned apples. Mom often spoke of making apple cider but the cider press was gone before I was born. Of all things apple, however, my favorite was, and still is, dried apples. Even into my college years, Mom was finding enough Grimes Goldens every year to dry a couple or three bushels because I well recall taking some to share with my dormitory Yankee roommates and explaining how we made them.
When I was growing up, there was no better snack than a handful of dried apples and if you’ve never had a dried apple fried pie, you simply have not experienced one of the finer things that life on earth has to offer.
From mid-summer until early fall, if you were sitting around with nothing else to do, Mom would put you to peeling apples to dry. We put thinly sliced apples on feed-sack bed spreads atop every roof on the place as well as on the hoods, tops, and trunk doors of parked cars and the bed of Dad’s pick-up. Take them in at night and spread them out again the next morning as soon as the dew was off.