Even if I couldn’t see the trees along the roads, or lined up in orchards, with branches bent towards the ground under the weight of their fruit, other senses would tell me this is a stupendous apple year. Opening the door to let the dog out for one last sniff around the yard before bedtime, I can smell the commingled sweet scents of the candelabra-like clusters of Nicotiania sylvestris, whose tubular white blossoms loom in the darkness beside the door, their jasmine-like perfume mixing with the equally heady scent of fallen apples piling up under nearby trees. The falling fruits rattle through the drying leaves day and night, falling with a soft thud. It’s apple season in all its glory.

Whether you buy a bag or bushel from a farm, pick your own from an orchard or patrol the roads, as I do, to gather wild fruits, when faced with a surplus of apples there’s always the urge to preserve them in as many ways as possible for the fast-approaching winter. If you want to save the fresh fruits for eating out of hand well into late autumn, you need to find a cool spot in your cellar or garage to store them, but they can’t be simply piled in baskets or boxes. Once you’ve sorted your apples and selected those that have no bad spots or bruises for long-term storage, you need to wrap them individually so they aren’t touching one another. While you may not be aware of this, in the early days of fruit shipping, each individual pear or apple was wrapped in tissue paper before being packed in a box and put on a train. I know this because my mother, daughter of a Sicilian railway worker, would regale us with tales of her father returning from work with boxes of fruit for his family of 10 children and setting them to work saving each piece of tissue wrap for use in the family outhouse — a luxury prized for its softness that was a big improvement over pages torn from a Sears catalog, which was the usual bath tissue. While you don’t need to use tissue to wrap your apples, squares of newsprint will do nicely. You can sit and wrap at your leisure in front of the television, having the double pleasure of knowing your apples’ shelf life has been extended while you’ve cheered on your favorite team.

Apples that don’t make the cut need to be turned into something wonderful: sauces, chutneys, butters, jams, pies and crisps. In the past weeks there’s been a pot of applesauce going in the crockpot or on the stove here almost daily as more and more windfalls come into the house. I usually just check for bad spots before quartering the whole apples, cooking them down with a bit of water until they are soft enough to run through that most revered of kitchen appliances, the Foley food mill, which purees the resulting sauce and leaves behind the skins and seeds. Then I add spices and sweetener and freeze the applesauce. Sometimes I cook this sauce down overnight in the crockpot until it becomes waxy in texture and a rich burgundy in color. The transformed apple butter is then canned and set on the shelf. But still the apples keep coming. We have chopped apples in our cereal and as part of a morning fruit bowl. We have pies and crisps until we grow guilty over the amount of sugar and pastry we’ve been consuming. While it’s true that apple pie is the ideal dessert for fall, we need to spread out our enjoyment, so I’ve resorted to freezing the filling for future pies.

For pies, now or future, you do need to peel and core the fruit. If you have one of those spiral devices that cores, peels and slices the apples, it can speed things up, although if you’re using lumpy and misshapen wild apples, they don’t do a perfect job. Otherwise, a sharp paring knife is your best bet.

F R E E Z E R   A P P L E   P I E   F I L L I N G

6 lbs. apples, sliced
2 cups granulated sugar
14 cup flour
112 tsp. ground cinnamon
14 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
Place the apple slices in a large pot, add sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir to combine and let sit for 30 minutes. Add lemon juice, stirring again to combine, then cook over medium heat until liquids begin to thicken. Allow to cool, then transfer to freezer bags or containers. A quart container makes a smallish pie, so if you have a large dish or like big pies, when it comes time to bake, use two quarts. To make the pie, place a pastry crust into a pie plate, then add thawed filling. Add a top crust and bake at 425 degrees until crust is golden and filling is bubbly, about 40 to 50 minutes. You can also use this filling for a crisp.

As with the great cucumber glut of this past summer, I’m always on the lookout for additional creative ways to use an embarassment of riches, be they cucumbers or apples. Apples are a good addition to slaw topping for Taco Tuesdays, whether the tacos are fish or shredded pork.

A P P L E   S L A W   F O R   T A C O S

6 cups shredded red cabbage
2 medium tart, crisp apples, julienned
13 cup cider vinegar
14 cup minced fresh cilantro
14 cup lime juice
2 Tbsp. sugar
sea salt and pepper, 12 tsp. each
Toss all ingredients together and refrigerate until needed.

We have a few autumn birthdays that call for celebratory cakes, and apples seem appropriate as an ingredient. Here’s a favorite one that features ginger, a natural combination with apples.

G I N G E R - A P P L E   U P S I D E - D O W N   C A K E

14 cup butter, cubed
14 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 large apples, cored, peeled and cut into 1/8-in. slices
14 cup butter, softened
23 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
112 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground ginger
14 tsp. salt
12 cup milk
Preheat oven to 375°. Place butter in a nine-inch round baking pan; heat in oven until melted. Tilt pan to coat bottom and sides. Sprinkle brown sugar and ginger onto bottom of pan. Arrange apple slices in circles over brown-sugar mixture. For batter, in a large bowl beat butter and brown sugar until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, ginger and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Spoon over apples. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.