Part II. Apples with Character
Mooresville, Indiana, is beautiful in early autumn, with its rolling hills, infinite rusty-looking corn fields, foliage that is just starting to turn color, at least 5 different kinds of evergreens gracefully co-existing with one another and their deciduous neighbors, withering sunflowers that dropped their heads, and apple trees that dropped their fruits, signaling a harvest time.
But summer is not completely gone yet. It can still surprise you with its noon warmth, or a dandelion on the side of the road that has all of its white still intact.
And while fall foliage can make Mooresville pretty, it’s the apple orchards that make it attractive. One of them in particular Anderson Orchard is a farmland of 150 acres of apple trees bearing more than three dozen different varieties throughout the year. Most of them, I am sure, you are all familiar with: Gala, Cortland, Honeycrisp (my favorite! I swear I can taste real honey every time I bite into that apple! How did they do it?), Golden Delicious, McIntosh. But Lodi? Turley Winesap? Mutsu (aka Crispin)? Jonagold? By the way, the latter is a cross of Jonathan, Golden Delicious, and Red Delicious varieties.
And let me tell you one thing: From what I’ve tried, they all have their own distinctive flavors, their own characters, if you will, so peculiar that they can not be mixed up with any other, no matter how many you eat in a row. Even after your 5th one, a Gala apple is going to taste like a true Gala, not like an apple out there. Some of them are tart, tangy and tough; some are mysterious and elusive; and some are just good old fellows. How would I describe the Honeycrisp? I’d say, bold and exuberant! It’s good and it knows it; hence, this burst of motley flavors since the moment you bite into it. Click here to read fun facts about it.
Anderson Orchard has been in the family of my sister-in-law’s husband for generations. The owners take pride and responsibility not only in supplying the locals with the freshest produce but also in providing them with the good old-fashioned family fun of apple picking. You can walk the apple rows, you can drive thru them. You can buy your apples, you can pick them. You can taste your apples prior to buying or not buying them. There are special buckets full of apples set out outside the barn just for tasting purposes. Also, there’s a sign next to each crate that reads the name of the variety as well as the short description of the flavor and the cooking/baking claims.
But no Anderson apple picking experience is entirely complete if you didn’t drop in at the family store, tried their hot apple cider or cider slush and a piece of apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, and bought a jar or two of their brand name apple butter and a dozen caramel apples.
The rave and crave of the town is the cobbler, of course, which is made from scratch by Mrs. Anderson and the family once a year for the apple festival. In other words, while supplies last. Limited quantities of it are assembled in late summer and are kept frozen until the big day when they just need to be baked.
The recipe for the Anderson apple cobbler has been in the family for years and is accordingly guarded. In spite of all my stalking attempts to befriend the lady of the farmland and naïve hopes that, however distant, I was legally part of the family, I left Mooresville with nothing but a most scrumptious aftertaste in my mouth of butter-laden crunchy crust, tangy tartness of fresh apples, creamy smoothness of vanilla ice cream (I suspect, it’s homemade too!), all unified by the sweetness of warm milky caramel sauce.
Another highlight of the festival is the annual Mooresville Craft Fair. It is held under circus tents on the farm, and it attracts crafters and visitors from all over the surrounding area, including Chicago and Indianapolis. I was quite surprised at the size of the event, considering there was no advertising (all word of mouth), the quality of the merchandise, and the reasonable prices. I found some antique milk bottles (I am starting a collection) which was a nice score!