When I get it in my head that I want to do something, there’s usually no stopping me. Call it OCD, call it persistence, or if you’re my fiancée, call it annoying. As soon as we settled on Chileno Valley Ranch for our wedding venue, I decided I wanted to bake apple pies for our wedding dessert from apples we’d pick at the ranch. This meant 25 pies, or 50 crusts, to be delicately rolled. It meant procuring 75 pounds of apples and 60 sticks of butter, and finding a giant freezer on the cheap.
I couldn’t figure out how I was going to accomplish this feat on my one kitchen counter, or how I would store them. I talked over ideas with friends, violated the cardinal rule of George and my relationship (no talking to George when he’s asleep) to discuss my latest thoughts on the pressing matter, and pored over spreadsheets (with formulas!) I created to map out the process and recipe scaling.
Finally, after much ado about pastry, I settled on the best idea yet: apple crumble. Call it brilliant, call it the easy way out, or if you like good food, call it delicious. I worried that the humble crumble would be too rustic a dessert for a wedding, but then I remembered that there’s a good chance a mooing cow will interrupt our ceremony, and that I’ll have hay and dirt stuck to the bottom of my dress, and I got over it.
I modified my spreadsheet – more apples and oats, less butter – and assembled an apple-picking dream team to head up to the ranch to pick 100 pounds of organic heirloom apples this past weekend. We denuded a couple Mutsu trees, eventually bagging close to 160 pounds. Leaving the difference for the ranch owners, Mike and Sally, to sell at the farmstand, we loaded up the station wagon and cruised back over the bridge, apples a’plenty in tow.
Back at home, I capitalized on George’s offer of help by parking him in front of the manual peeler/corer/slicer. I manned a giant bowl of acidulated water and two bubbling pots of apples with brown sugar and cinnamon, and in no time flat (okay, maybe six hours) we had prepped and cooked all one hundred pounds! George became a master of the apple machine, using his fine motor skills to yield long strands of perfect apple peel. It’s probably also the last time he’ll ever offer to help me in the kitchen.
After cleaning up the sticky apple residue coating every surface in our kitchen, I returned the next morning to prepare the crumble topping. The checker at Whole Foods was highly suspicious of my Sunday morning purchases as he rang up my green juice and 40 sticks of butter, but I just smiled and said “Everything in moderation!” Back at home with my food processor and a big mixing bowl, I crumbled away as our previously sticky kitchen absorbed little puffs of flour here and there, until it looked like a light dusting of snow had settled on every surface.
Today, I sit in my somewhat reformed kitchen with 36 quarts of apple filling in the fridge and 11 gallon bags of crumble topping in the freezer. Our wedding dessert will winter in my friend Neal’s subzero freezers, where it will be right at home among many pints of organic ice cream. If all goes to plan, come May, our wedding guests will dig into bowls of warm apple crumble and vanilla ice cream as we celebrate in the barn next to the apple orchard. It doesn’t get much better than that.