A is for Apple

September 11, 2003

A is for Apple

It is back to school and the beginning of cooler weather. A crisp, juicy apple is the perfect snack. I wait with throngs of other moms for the lower school kids to be dismissed. It is so easy to throw two apples in the car. One to snack on while I’m driving up Avon mountain, and one for Eli to munch as he rides home, exhausted from his busy day in first grade. I love listening to his chatter on the ride home.

The other day, we began talking about the many kinds of apples. He knows that I know alot about apples from when I worked at the 4-H Farm. I taught the apple program for one fall season. I learned more about apples than I had ever wanted to know. Kids would arrive three times a day for their field trip. I would greet them with another teacher. We would take the kids up to the orchard where there were more than 15 varieties of apples. The kids would be in a hay wagon and we teachers would take turns driving the tractor that pulled the wagon. After picking the apples, we would drive the kids back down to our cider room where they would get the chance to use a cider press and taste cider from apples we had just picked.

We learned which trees had which varieties, and we learned which varieties to have the kids pick to get the best tasting cider. At the end of the day, we would go home with all the leftover cider, so we did want it to be good. We would go into the apple room- a huge refrigerated room- to taste different varieties and see what we liked. We also learned that the best cider was mid to late season cider since the apples used for the early cider did not have the best flavor. The mid to late season apples make the sweetest almost cinnamon flavored cider. We did get to be cider connoisseurs.

These days, I love Cortland, McCoun, Macintosh, Granny Smith, and Gala. Cortlands have the wonderful ability not to turn brown very quickly when cut or bitten into. This makes them a good choice for using in waldorf salads and the like. It was always fun, when we had an older group of kids, to use only Cortlands to make the cider. We could talk about why the cider is brown and why the Cortland cider took a while to turn brown, since freshly pressed it was only slightly tan. Red Delicious apples never held much appeal for me, they are not juicy enough for making cider, and for some reason, people love to munch them. They are not the one to pick, though, for cooking. So stay away from them for apple pies. Try a mix of Cortlands, and Macintoshes.

For those of you who do like to cook and make apple pies or crisps, invest in an apple peeling gizmo. I never thought it was a big deal to peel the apples and slice them, but once you’ve used one of these, you will swear by them too. It clamps to the counter with suction and if you’ve selected good and evenly round apples, it will crank through them in mere seconds. You make three or four cuts through the slices and you’re done. Yes, this is one more gadget that I highly recommend that you add to your kitchen. (you can get one from L.L. Bean or from Williams-Sonoma for about $28)

For plenty of info, there are quite a few websites… check out the New York Apple Country site (click on varieties and go from there- it’s a well designed site), Core values northeast, US Apple Association. In any case, whatever you do this fall, make it a point to go and pick up a bag of apples, enjoy munching them and cooking with them. Try some of my well used recipes below. Buy a few different kinds of apples and do your own taste tests. Keep in mind that some are better for cooking and some are better for noshing. Please get some cider from a local cider mill, and drink it with everything.

Chicken Apple Hash with Cider Cream

From the Open House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase. This is really good, and perfect for an autumn brunch. Takes about 1 1/2 hours to prepare. Makes 8 generous servings.

4 Tbsp butter (1/2 stick)
1 large red onion, chopped
1/2 cup diced celery
2 Granny Smith apples, cored, and thinly sliced
4 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached until just barely cooked, and cut into irregular bite-sized chunks
2 cups cooked wild rice

Cider Cream:
4 Tbsp butter (1/2 stick)
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups apple cider, heated to very hot
3 Tbsp heavy or whipping cream
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 12 x 9” casserole.
2. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over med- high heat. Add onion, celery, and apple and sauté, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Add the chicken and wild rice and stir to blend.
3. Cider cream: Melt butter in a saucepan over med. heat. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring for 1 min. Whisk in the hot cider, 1/2 cup at a time, until smooth & thickened after each addition. Then whisk in cream. Reduce to low and cook 10 minutes. The sauce should be the consistency of a medium béchamel. Add spices.
4. Add the cider cream to the chicken mixture and put into casserole. Bake ‘til heated through 20-25 minutes.

Apple Crisp

This is from several different recipes to get the crisp part just right. It is good and crunchy!
5 apples, peeled, cored and cut into pieces
a little lemon juice
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup oats
1. Toss apples with lemon juice. Put into a 9×9 baking pan.
2. Mix together remaining ingredients. Sprinkle over the top. Bake at 350° for 45 mins.
3. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Apple Blond Brownies

Great old time recipe from my mom’s friend, Mary Jane Rodman. Mom used to make it for us alot when we were little. Now I make it for Eli- it was a hit for snack at school when he was in Junior Kindergarten at Renbrook. Easy and good!

1/2 cup shortening, melted
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
3 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

preheat oven to 350°.
1. Mix shortening, sugar and egg and beat well.
2. Stir in apples, add nuts.
3. Mix together the dry ingredients, and then add to the apple mixture.
4. Pour into a well greased (with cooking spray) 8 x 8 pan.
5. Bake for 40-50 minutes. Cool slightly and cut into squares.

Sour Cream Apple Pie

From The Silver Palate. I’ve changed it a little bit, but not much. It is really good! The crust is really tasty and really easy if you mix it in the food processor.
Crust:
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
5 Tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
8 Tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces
4 Tbsp shortening
4-6 Tbsp. apple cider (or apple juice)

Filling:
2/3 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp flour
5-7 apples, peeled, cored and chopped

Topping:
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup finely chopped walnuts (I use pecans)

1. Mix together dry ingredients for crust in food processor. Add butter and shortening. Pulse until it resembles fine oatmeal. Add cider 1 Tbsp at a time with machine running, just until it all holds together. Then take it out and chill it in the fridge in a baggie for at least 2 hours.
2. Mix together the first 5 ingredients for the filling. Add the apples and toss well.
3. Using about 2/3 of the dough, roll it out and put it into a pie plate. Fill with the apple filling. Mix topping together and sprinkle evenly over apples.
4. Roll out the rest of the dough and cut small decorative shapes (leaves, apples, whatever) and place on top of pie. (There will probably still be extra.)
5. Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes.

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