I grew up in Helsinki Finland. We were a typical Finnish family, having a winter and a summer home. When the end of May arrived, our family of six moved to our summer cottage where we lived until autumn time and school went back again, after the long summer holidays.
My childhood summers were devoured running barefoot outside from sunrise to sunset. There were rivers to swim, fresh raspberries and strawberries to pick and eat, cubby houses and sandpits to play in, and butterflies and dragonflies to chase.
When my mum cooked on our old-fashioned wood-heated stove she would ask us children to fetch her fresh dill, new potatoes, or rhubarb from the yard. We had no running water or other modern conveniences but loved our back-to-earth lifestyle.
My dad was especially proud of our six apple trees, each a different variety. The branches of each spread out, in springtime with blossoms and in the autumn as if to show off their bounty. The apples were red, green, and yellow, their sizes utterly uneven. They had brown spots and an occasional worm. But they were the real apples. No need to go to the shops to buy the shiny ones, just pick one right off the tree.
Once autumn came and our family was settled back in our winter home, harvest time arrived. It was an annual working bee that the whole family got involved in. The apples were first picked and then sorted. My grandparents arrived early each morning and helped until late at night. Somehow, I got the picture that it was my grandmother who really was in charge and knew exactly what to do.
Once a year our kitchen was converted to a sticky apple processing plant. Some of the apples we made into puree which we preserved to be used for apple crumbles, apple pies or just as is to eat with vanilla ice-cream. While others were juiced. I’m still not sure how my grandma knew which variety was best for which, but the homemade apple juice tasted ever so sweet. All day long our kitchen filled with happy chatter as we all tried to compete with the sound of the apple juicer.
As if I didn’t already love autumn, the apple processing days were followed by days of apple baking. Between apple cakes, apple pies, baked apple oatmeal and apple jam, we used our apple stash in no time and filled the freezers full for the wintertime to come.
But for a little girl like me, the best part was sitting next to my grandma, in a busy warm kitchen, while everyone around us was happy and full of life. My grandma had the ability to make me feel like she had been waiting all week just to see me, and now the day was complete.
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