It is October in Georgia, and the morning air has that hint of crispness that means it is apple-picking time in the North Georgia Mountains. This is one of my family’s favorite fall activities, and if we can tack it on to the end of a camping trip like we do most years, that is even better.
This year’s trip to the orchards around Ellijay, Georgia was a bit of a spur of the moment excursion. We found ourselves with a beautiful weekend in late September, so we called up a couple of friends, loaded them into the car, and headed north on a sunny Sunday afternoon. We typically like to go to the B. J. Reece Orchard on Highway 52 because they allow dogs in the orchards, and when we stop by on our way home from our favorite camping spot nearby, we always have our dog with us. This year, however, we left Dixie at home since the four kids already in the backseats were enough to handle.
Over the years, the local orchards have expanded their entertainment options to keep apple pickers and their money on the farm longer. There are pig races and petting zoos. You can milk a real, live cow. The apple cannons at B. J. Reece are cool as is the zip line over the orchard, if you are into that sort of thing. (It would be my own special version of torture to go flying over the treetops, but to each his own.) The 10-year-old boys in our crew enjoyed the jumping pillow for quite a long time. Hillcrest Orchard down the road has putt-putt, and each of the orchards in the area put their own special stamp on orchard and farm activities. They all have websites to help you plan your visit.
One of the surprising things about apple picking is how quickly the bags fill up. It feels like you have just started working your way through the orchard when, before you know it, you have convinced yourself that a family of four can eat a whole bushel of apples before they go bad. Seriously, it happens to everybody.
Enter Commissioner Nellie Duke to the rescue. We talked about Miss Nellie and her Nellie’s Jellies back in May during strawberry season. In addition to yummy strawberry preserves, Miss Nellie makes a fantastic apple butter too. She has graciously agreed to share her recipe with us so we can take advantage of the bountiful apple goodness of our state.
If you have never been apple picking before, the Georgia Apple Festival in Ellijay, Georgia is a great place to start. This year the festival is October 10th-11th and October 17th-18th. They have apples, apple products, local crafts, an antique car show, and a parade. While you are there, get a bushel or two of apples, and turn them into Miss Nellie’s Apple Butter.
Nellie’s Apple Butter Recipe
1 Bucket Fresh Apples (approximately 10 lbs.)
3 lbs. granulated sugar
2 lbs. dark brown sugar
3/4 cup powdered cinnamon
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons apple pie spice
2 teaspoons nutmeg
Wash and peel apples. Cut into small pieces, removing cores and seed. Place in pot with small amount of water. Bring to boil, cook slowly until tender, stirring occasionally. When apple pieces fall apart, remove from heat. If there is liquid left, drain, then use potato masher or other instrument to crush into applesauce. Add sugars, the spices and vinegar. Bring to a slow boil, stirring constantly. You can tell by color, aroma, consistency and TASTE, when it has cooked enough. ( usually 15-20 minutes, slow boil) If it is too spicy, add more applesauce. If not spicy enough, add more cinnamon or apple pie spice to taste.
Pour into sterilized, dried, jars. Place sterilized lids on top of jar. Screw on top until very tight. Turn upside-down (invert), let stand for 15-30 minutes, then turn right-side up! Allow to cool, and you are done!
YIELD: 1 to 1 1/2 gallons apple butter.
NOTE: If fresh apples are not available, you may use unsweetened applesauce. Also, if you like “chunky” apple butter, reserve a few apples cut into very small pieces, and add a few minutes before cooking is finished, just boiling long enough to soften a little. That will add some “chunkiness” to your apple butter recipe!
Karla Jacobs is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women. She lives in Marietta with her husband, two kids, a dog, and some fish. Her favorite Georgia apples are Mutsu, Arkansas Black, and Stayman Winesap.
Is there another soft drink besides Coca-Cola? In Georgia there is not. When I was a kid, the words Coke and soft drink (or soda, for those north of the Mason Dixon line) were synonymous. When you went to a restaurant and ordered a meal, you would ask for a Coke to drink. The waiter or waitress would then ask you what kind of Coke you wanted, and that is when you would specify Coke, Sprite, or Mr. Pibb. Sometimes, you got the dreaded question, “Is Pepsi OK?” It was always asked apologetically. Of course, the only answer to that was, “No. In that case I’ll have a sweet tea.”
Coke is it. It’s the real thing. Coke adds life. Have a Coke and a smile. You can’t beat the feeling. Coke would like to teach the world to sing.
Coke is Georgia, and Georgia is Coke.
Nowhere is that more evident than at the World of Coke in Atlanta, where I recently spent a fun morning with my kids and our cousins from North Carolina. This museum to one of America’s most iconic brands is a celebration of the history of Coca Cola and its impact around the world. It also has air conditioning, which makes it a great way to kill some time with the kids when it is hot enough outside to melt asphalt.
The genius of Coca-Cola advertising is on display from entrance to exit. More than one hundred years’ worth of road signs, wall hangings, and print ads cover the walls from floor to ceiling. Vintage Coke machines are displayed throughout and brought back memories for me of stopping at old country stores and getting out to get a Coke while Daddy put gas in the car. A bottle cost 45 cents back then, so I had to scrounge up a quarter and two dimes in the backseat. My kids had to put up with a constant stream of “I remember that!” all the way through the building. One room was playing the “Here Kid Catch” commercial with Mean Joe Green over and over. I made the kids watch it twice.
As a kid, I was always fascinated by the folklore surrounding the Secret Formula for Coca-Cola—only two guys in the entire world knew the formula, but they each only knew half, and they were not allowed to fly together. Remember that? World of Coke does not exactly debunk the myth, but they do have the honest to goodness secret formula locked away in a real life vault. I saw it with my own eyes. The vault, that is. The pathway to the vault is a walk through time from the first fizzy glass of Coca-Cola poured at Jacobs’ Pharmacy in Five Points in 1886 through different owners, the rise of copycats, and the establishment of Coca-Cola headquarters in Downtown Atlanta. There are interactive games to play on your way through the exhibit as well.
The museum also touches on parts of Coke’s history that are more controversial. Remember the disaster that was New Coke? Remember how it tasted like over-sweetened, flat Pepsi? Remember where you were when you found out Coca-Cola Classic was coming back? (I was at basketball camp at North Georgia College.) There is an exhibit to that dark 79 days in Coca-Cola history, and it is one you do not want to miss. There is also an exhibit of pop art, sculptures made of Coke cans, and an interactive “Design Your Own Bottle” game in the same room to occupy your kids while you contemplate whether Coke generated the controversy on purpose.
The highlight, the grand finale, the pièce de résistance is the Tasting Room. This room is full of flavors from all over the world just waiting for you to try. This was my kids’ favorite room of all, and I will admit that it was mine too. The products are arranged by world region, and flavors run the gamut from fruity sweet to slightly bitter. When you go, you must try Beverly from Italy. It is indescribable and must be sipped to be fully appreciated. The machine has a sign encouraging you to take a picture of your friends drinking it and then to share those pictures on World of Coke social media. That is a good indication of what you are getting yourself into with this drink.
Afterwards, we were off to the gift shop, where they have every Coca-Cola logo item you can possibly imagine, including scratch and sniff t-shirts. We settled for Coke flavored lip balm.
This summer, when the kids are driving you nuts and it is too hot for sane people to go outside, World of Coke is a great place to visit. It took us about two and a half to three hours to complete the tour. While you are at it, stitch together a whole day of entertainment by visiting World of Coke in the morning, having lunch at CNN Center, and then spending the afternoon at the Georgia Aquarium next door.
Did I mention it has air conditioning?
Karla Jacobs is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women. She lives in Marietta with her husband, two kids, a dog, and some fish.