My paternal grandmother’s name was Bess. Bess was a tough woman.
I remember once when I was about 19 or 20 years old, I was moon-eyed over some boy. During a visit, I was waxing poetically to her about my Prince Charming when she looked me dead in the eye and said, “You better not get serious with that boy. I’ll kick your ass.”
That’s just the kind of person she was — never one to sugarcoat. And she was right about that boy. He didn’t deserve my heart.
Bess often liked to refer to herself in the third person. Getting out of bed in the morning, getting off the couch, or heading out the door was often preceded with, “Come on Bessie, old girl.”
I don’t have a lot of memories of Bessie’s cooking. Not like my other grandmother. Except for this. Bess didn’t just make these at Christmas. She made them every time I came for a visit, probably because she knew I liked them.
Not long ago, my eyes passed over a display of cinnamon imperials in the grocery store and instantly the image of the kitchen in her 1900’s bungalow on Douglas Street in Joliet, Ill., flashed across my memory. I can see myself as a grade schooler, sitting at her formica kitchen table with chairs that creaked whenever you moved. Church bells from the cathedral one block away waft through the open window. There are blue and yellow glass globes hanging over the kitchen sink.
The memory of these apples was almost palatable, and without thinking I grabbed a bag of cinnamon imperials and went in search of apples. I had no idea what else was required to make these, but I knew I would figure it out.
I love that about food, don’t you? Not just that it tastes good. Not just that it can provide comfort at times when you are sick or sad or happy. Or that it can be eaten alone or shared with friends. I love that for a brief moment it can take you back to a long forgotten time when life was simple and sweet.
Red Hot Cinnamon Apples
- 2 cups water
- ¾ cup cinnamon imperials (Red Hots) candies
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 6 medium tart apples, peeled and quartered
- Bring first three ingredients to a boil in a large sauce pan over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until candy has dissolved.
- Add apples. Simmer uncovered until apples are tender, about 20-30 minutes. Remove apples from heat and allow to cool slightly before serving. For a deeper red color, let apples continue to soak in the syrup for a few hours.
- Remove apples with a slotted spoon into serving dishes. Drizzle any remaining syrup over top.