I am aware the general public is already on to the pumpkin-flavored craze that happens this time of year, but I am still into the apples. I am partial to Wolf River apples. They are beautiful, tart and perfect for baking, though their claim to fame is truly their size. They can be as big as a man’s hand to the point where it only takes two or three to make a pie. We have a very old, towering Wolf River apple tree right out the door at the farm, along with a miniature beside it. When we were young, Dad would put the elevator into the tree and coerce us kids to stand on the ground with baseball gloves and gunny sacks ready to load up. It was a clever apple picking maneuver. In recent years, we have been lucky enough to have a high-lift on the farm for a construction job and used that to pick boxes upon boxes of apples. My brothers even hand-crafted me an apple picker of sorts with a piece of rebar that has screws welded to the top in claw formation to grab the apple and a bucket duct-taped underneath to catch it in. This is for those times when I need only a few apples to complete a recipe, and it actually is quite successful.
    The quality of the apples depends on the year. Our Wolf River only produces heavy every other year. In the off year, there are apples just not near as many. Some years the summer storms bang them every which way, and we have bruised apples. Sometimes the worms and creatures get the apples, and they are disgusting. Every year I think I am going to hang out worm repellent mixtures, and every year I forget until fall. When they drop from the fall storms, we snatch them up as fast as we can to turn them into delicious applesauce. What follows are some of our favorite apple recipes. I promise you they will not disappoint. There is something about the smell of apple treats baking that fill a house, and bring about a feeling of comfort no candle can come close to. Perhaps instead of making a treat and taking it to a friend, build it and take to their house to bake – that will warm the heart and home. Even a bag of sauce-ready apples and a box of Jell-O is a treat.

Betty’s apple cake
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup oil
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
Dash salt
3-4 peeled, sliced apples
Dash cinnamon
    Combine first three ingredients, add the dry. Mixture will be thick. Gently stir in apples. Grease and flour a 9- by 13-inch pan. Pour into pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. When cool, dust top with powdered sugar. This cake lasts less than 24 hours at our farm. Definitely a favorite.

Apple cookies or bars
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. each of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup peeled, chopped apple
1 cup raisins or Craisins, nuts (optional)
    Mix sugar, butter, milk and egg in a large bowl. Combine flour, salt, soda and spices. Add to wet mixture and mix well. Add oats, raisins and apples. If mixture seems dry, add a bit more milk. I prefer to make these in bar form, using a greased jelly roll pan, baking at 375 degrees for 15-17 minutes.

Flavored homemade applesauce
    Grease a slow cooker. Wash and quarter apples. Peeling is optional. Place apples in cooker, sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent some browning. My mom’s trick to making delicious flavored applesauce was using a box of Jell-O. A cranberry Jell-O packet (add in some real cranberries, too), strawberry or raspberry all make delicious smelling and tasting applesauce. I tend not to add additional sugar when using a large box of Jell-O. Sprinkle your chosen flavor on the top of your apples and pour under a cup of water over the top. Cover and set cooker to low. They soften nicely on low for about eight hours or on high for four. Of course, this timeline is dependent on the type of apples you use. Some have more water content and make for runny sauce. This is where the Jell-O helps; it will assist in thickening. If too watery when done, cook with lid off in an attempt to get some water to evaporate. An immersion blender or food mill will make your apples into nice, smooth sauce. Enjoy.  
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wis. Her children, Ira (11), Dane (9), Henry (4) and Cora (adventurous crawler), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.