I seem to catch the baking bug way more in the fall than in the summer. There’s something about heating up the oven on a chilly fall morning or evening and filling the entire house with warm smells of cinnamon and apples and sugar all combining together for one heavenly scent – FALL! Fall is my favorite season by far. I wish it lasted longer so I try to enjoy it as much as I can. Apple Dumplings just yell Hello FALL at the top of their little apple lungs! We used to live in a little town that celebrated fall each year by hosting the Apple and Pork Festival! Clinton Illinois is the home of the annual Apple and Pork Festival so mark your calendars! It’s this weekend! It’s always the last full weekend of September and is a big event for the town. There are crafts, antiques, artwork, yard sales, local vendors, lots and lots of yummy food that awakens the locals by all the wonderful smells bright and early in the morning. We had gone to the festival for years with my family and never really planned on settling in the town, but once I saw that old house, I just knew it was our house the moment I walked through it. It was our first house and it was wonderful, with its old house quirks and all! It will always be special to us. Even though we can laugh at all our renovation mishaps and all the blood, sweat, tears and lots and lots of Rolling Rock beer that it took to complete our projects, that house will always be our first house and we will never forget it.
Well, that house just happened to be one block away from the main homestead grounds of this Apple and Pork Festival. And when do you think we closed and moved into that awesome house? Two days before the festival! I think we closed on a Thursday or Friday just before the craziness began! We were so eager to move in that we didn’t care about it being a busy weekend. We just wanted in our house! I remember going to sleep that Friday night with boxes still to unpack, no curtains on the windows and our old, old, old furnace kicking in. When it first fired up for the season, you swore the house was on fire. It just had that smell that went through all the old vents and floor grates that smelled like it was for sure going to burn the house down. But it didn’t and it was fine and that oldie held up just fine until we decided it was time to install something more energy-efficient. I remember waking up that first morning in the house with the sun beaming through our upstairs bedroom window since we didn’t have any curtains yet and I quickly needed to take our dogs outside. I can’t remember if the fence was broken or part of it had been taken down to get a big machine or something to the back or side yard, but I had to take the dogs out on a leash to the front yard. I’m out there at the crack of dawn with my hair all crazy, flannel jammies on and half asleep. People are already parking their cars along our road and making their way to the festival. Then comes the tram. Oh the tractor pulled tram! It went right in front our house from the festival grounds to the square uptown. Luckily with very few people on board that early in the morning, but there were some early risers who just stared at me and I stared at them and I didn’t know what to do so I just waved. I kind of felt like cousin Eddie out there in my bathrobe, except I don’t really wear robes. After a few hours we became used to the tram that came down the road every 10 minutes, full of people going to different parts of the town for the festival. Our dogs were on high alert during the festival. They barked at the poor festival goers as they walked past our house for what seemed to be the entire weekend for the ten years we lived there. We miss having our house full of family, a big pot of chili on, usually football of some sort on the TV, and the best parking ever for the festival! We haven’t made it back to the festival since we moved and I’d probably get all emotional and cry as I walked by our house so maybe it’s best if we hold off for another year! It’s kind of sad because our youngest daughter doesn’t really remember the house. She was 1 1/2 when we moved. She asks about it all the time so I try to describe it to her and show her pictures. If you happen to be in our old town and walk by our old house this weekend, please tell it hello for me!
6-8 small to medium apples. I like Gala for this recipe.
1 C sugar
1/2 C light Brown Sugar
1 C water
2 teas cinnamon
4 TBS butter
1 teas vanilla
2 1/2 C All purpose flour
2 1/2 teas baking soda
1 1/2 teas salt
3/4 C Crisco Shortening
3/4 C milk
You will also need about 1/2 TBS more of butter and sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar per apple.
Combine your dry ingredients for dough and incorporate the shortening with a pastry cutter or fork.
Add in the milk and mix just until dough is formed.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
In the meantime, make your sauce.
Combine all the sauce ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium high heat, stirring frequently.
Bring this to a boil and boil just for a minute, stirring frequently and then turn the heat off.
Once your dough is chilled enough, wash, peel, and core your apples.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
Divide dough into equal parts. I did 8 since I had 8 small apples.
On a floured surface, roll out one of the dough pieces into a thin flat circular shape. As you can see, it does not need to be perfect 🙂
Place one peeled and cored apple in the center.
Place a little pat of butter into the center of the apple and dough
Sprinkle the apple with cinnamon and sugar.
Wrap the dough up around the apple carefully so it is all sealed as best you can and no holes form in the dough.
I just gather it up on all sides and pinch it together to help seal it. You can tear off any major excess, but little excess is fine, just pinch and fold it in.
Smooth it out with your hands.
Repeat this with all your remaining apples and place them in a greased oven safe pan about an inch apart. I had to use two pans for mine.
Stir your sauce if it has separated and spoon a little sauce over the top of the apples. There should be leftover sauce so keep this for use later.
Bake the apples at 375 for 30-35 minutes in the center rack of oven watching to make sure the sauce does not burn.
The dough will become slightly golden in color.
I think they are served best over vanilla ice cream. The ice cream becomes a melty pool for the dumpling to hang out in as you enjoy it! But you could also just serve the dumplings without the ice cream.
Spoon the remaining sauce over each dumpling and serve immediately.
My little dumplings just loved this special fall dessert!