In the event, I discovered that making caramel in large quantities can be a touchy business, either staying too thin and sliding of the apples or becoming too thick and clumping everywhere, which meant that they were certainly not the prettiest caramel apples, even if they tasted quite good, a fact that I tested more than once. The apple cider was also not quite up to standard, since I was unable to find the time to get some apricot brandy from the liquor store.
Even so, things went very well. We gave away by far the better part of sixty apples and a similar number of apple ciders, and many people, especially the parents, seemed genuinely delighted. I had to encourage several of the adults to leave the apples for the children and to content themselves with cider, and the oldest among them sometimes became quite nostalgic.
It was a real pleasure for me, despite the cold, to sit on the porch and see the excitement of the children and the surprise of the adults, to have people stay long enough to drink a cup of cider rather than just take a few candies and leave, to have the holiday be something more, even if only a little more, than a commercial candy exchange.
Now I just have to perfect the art of making caramel before Halloween comes around again.