There are several faithful, or fateful, signs of waning summer. One that never ceases to catch me off guard is the dusky lilac-pink of Joe Pye-weed looming, portent-like, by the side of the road—how is it that something so large and attention-demanding can rise up so suddenly, seemingly overnight? The Queen Anne’s Lace, far more quiet, just as if it had been there all along and you had been too fool to notice.
At my old house I could measure the pace of summer on my early morning walks down the farm road behind my house, counting the season from wild iris to berries, to thistle and goldenrod and sunflowers, to Queen Anne’s Lace, Joe Pye-weed, and rose hips. Now I rely more on the farmstands to tell me where we are in the swift gauntlet of summer, to signal me with a sign in the form of a red-ripened pepper or an early apple. The peppers are still to come, but the heirloom Yellow Transparents are in, a steal at $1.00 per bag, summer on fire sale to make room for fall.
The air has changed. Nights are cooler, and the sky at evening has a wistful look, its radiance faded from the intensity of just a few weeks ago, its colors muted as if to more age-appropriate hues. In the morning when I take my coffee outside, the sun’s slant barely reaches the table top, quitting its old job of cup warmer, and telling me to trade in my hat for a sweater. Even the sounds are different. They seem to say, it’s time to go.
Country Apple Cake
I like the light texture and unusual flavor of this moist cake made with whole wheat flour. Like one of our family favorites, Dutch Apple Cake, it is homespun but special. You can also make it with dried apples or pears. Serves 8.
3 whole eggs
3 eggs, separated
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar (preferably pure can sugar)
1 tea baking powder
½ cup lard, softened
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 small apples (about 1 ½ cups), diced, or same amount of dried fruit
Additional T of sugar
Brown sugar or 10x for dusting
Heavy cream and/or fruit for garnish
Beat the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar together until light. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix until combined; beat in the lard and the butter.
Peel and roughly chop the apples into about ¼ dice; stir them into the batter.
In a small bowl beat the 3 egg whites til foamy; add the additional tablespoon of sugar and continue beating to stiff peaks. Fold gently into the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before releasing from the pan to cool to warm room temperature. Serve with fruit or just with a dusting of light brown sugar or confectioner’s sugar, perhaps some heavy cream.