You probably already know that autumn makes me kinda manic. It’s just so obviously superior to every other time of year. Plus, it is by far the best time of year in New York City, and I was sorry to be missing out on it this year: walks through Green-Wood Cemetery, the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival and, this Sunday, the marathon — my favorite day of the whole year.
But it turns out that autumn in Portland can be just as gloriously sun-dappled and a whole hell of a lot more dreamy. We’ve only lived here for a month, but things already feel pretty damn cozy. It hasn’t all been apple cider and Tao of Tea. Of all the friends and family lurking about, I’ve spent time with very few of them. So I have some guilt about that. There have been a few challenges, mostly involving the DMV, paralyzing neck pain (not mine), a cat spending two weeks under some blankets and the unexpected anxiety brought on by the fact that at 8 p.m., my street is as silent as it is at 2 a.m. The last time Brooklyn was that quiet was 275 years ago.
Fortunately, all of these minor adjustments have been more than compensated for by a bunch of nice things.
- The most exciting development is that I have ceased reviewing movies for Flickboom.com, a site read by very few loyalists (thank you), in order to write music snippets for the Portland Mercury, an alternative weekly read by tens of thousands of people per week.
- I went to this city website, and a few days later, a bike messenger delivered a packet of maps, a pedometer and a bandanna of city bike routes right to my door! For free!
- It hasn’t rained that much.
- The man who wrote the first two books I ever edited was just interviewed on South African TV; I am so proud of him.
- There may not be a garlic festival here, but the Portland Nursery does have an annual apple-tasting event. It’s free, so I went twice.
That final item resulted in a surplus of apples and pears at our house. See, there were dozens and dozens of varieties, and all of them were 99 cents per pound. The first time I went was with a passel of ex-roommates; it was lovely. So the following weekend, I took RZ. The best part is getting to taste all of the apple varieties in a giant wasp-infested tent. After comparing the nuances of that many apples and pears, I am pretty sure that even a person raised on Arby’s and Sunny D would feel like a connoisseur.
All those apples had to get eaten somehow. That’s why I made apple crumble twice in a week. Yes, that is why.
Some apple crumbles taste like you’re biting into a sun-warmed orchard in Vermont, the wholesomeness bursts forth and you think, “This dessert has vitamins!” This is not one of those. Though I will say that, aside from the bourbon, all of the ingredients I used were organic.
Eat Yer Whiskey Apple Pear Crumble
- Two cups rolled oats (get the slow-cooking kind)
- Two-thirds cup flour (take your pick; you can use a gluten-free type if you want)
- Two-thirds cup brown sugar, plus three tablespoons
- One teaspoon salt
- One tablespoon cinnamon
- Two teaspoons allspice
- One stick of melted butter
- Three large tart apples of different varieties, peeled and chopped
- Three large pears of different varieties, peeled and chopped
- Juice from two lemons
- Maker’s Mark
- Whipped cream, if you’re going crazy
Here’s what I did
First, the oven. It needs heating to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 191, Canadians). Get a casserole dish or similar and mix together half a cup of bourbon, three tablespoons of brown sugar (maple syrup would be delicious) and the lemon juice. This is the maceration juice. You can also put these same ingredients in a glass with seltzer and ice to keep hydrated during the process. As the apples and pears get chopped, add them to this tasty cocktail, basting from time to time. Set this aside while you stare out the window and finish your drink. It’s nice to let everything meld for a little bit.
Believe it or not, the hard part is over. Whisk the first six ingredients (the dry ones) together. Add the melted butter and stir until you have a crumbly mixture. Pour the apples into a baking dish. A 9×4 will result in more thoroughly cooked apples, but I usually opt for a deeper dish. Don’t add all of the liquid. Use your judgment; I used about half of it. Spoon the crumble on top and let it bake for 40-45 minutes. Know your oven.
The first time I made this, I whipped up some cream. I didn’t sweeten it, but I did flavor it with two tablespoons of bourbon and a generous pinch of cinnamon. It was good. Next time, I would probably add a little brown sugar.
I relied heavily on this recipe from the really nice blog Ginger and Berries, but I made some significant changes. Her pictures are nicer than mine, but I have a feeling I like my crumble more — mainly because it has less sugar and more bourbon. Now is also a good time to say: Alcohol does not disappear when cooked. I mean, some of it evaporates, but certainly not all of it. If you are in your twentieth month of sobriety or you’re making this for your Mormon aunty, leave out the bourbon.