A new apple season is here, offering a crisp, sweet edge to fall meals, plus the promise of lots of pie — and pie-inspired dishes.
Our local apple season peaks from late September through Thanksgiving, so now is the perfect time to enjoy them.
What makes apples and apple pie so all-American?
"It brings people together," said Ken Haedrich, author of "Apple Pie: 100 Delicious and Decidedly Different Recipes for America's Favorite Pie" (Harvard Common Press, $14.95).
"It's the closest thing we have, food-wise, to a universal symbol of goodness and contentment.
"It manages to do this with unabashed honesty and not an ounce of pretense. It's an edible reflection of America's best character traits."
Love of apples — and apple pie — seem eternal. The sweet scent of baking apples, mixed with cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg, automatically brings back memories.
"It reminds me of my mom and dad, who are gone now," Haedrich said. "I grew up watching them make apple pies together, and it's probably my fondest childhood memory."
In honor of 2011 as the "Year of the Pie," Haedrich's "Apple Pie" was re-released last month — just in time for the new apple crop.
Haedrich loves all sorts of apple pies, particularly those with a brown sugar crumb topping.
For pies, he prefers Winesap apples.
"It's hard to find but worth looking for in an area where they're grown. It's the perfect blend of sweet, tart and juicy, with wonderfully complex flavor. Among the more common varieties, I like Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji and Jonathan.
"My best advice: If you find an apple that makes a great pie, stick with it," he said, "but don't be afraid to experiment."
Apples are mostly fiber, water and sugar, which makes them a great fat-free energy booster. They also contain a moderate amount of vitamin C and several antioxidants. One cup of sliced apples has 65 calories. Apples also are 25 percent air; that's why they float.
When choosing apples, select ones that feel firm and heavy for their size. The skin should show no dents or bruises. Avoid those that smell musty.
When picking apples from the tree, choose mature, firm fruit that is slightly underripe; it will last longer when stored. Look for crispness and a sweet-tart taste, depending on variety. Overripe fruit are softer, often with a very yellow skin tone, and more mellow than tart flavor.
Store apples in the refrigerator crisper in plastic bags with several small holes. The bag retains moisture, but not so much as to make the apples mushy. Put the bagged apples in the crisper drawer, but keep the drawer only three-quarters full. That allows space for air circulation.
Before eating, wash apples well and scrub as needed. Commercial apples may have a light wax coating or pesticide residue.
Cut or peeled apples rapidly turn brown. Prevent this by dipping slices in an ascorbic mixture, such as 2 tablespoons lemon juice combined with 1 cup water.
Pineapple juice, orange juice and white wine also work. Yellow Delicious slices tend to stay whiter without treatment.
If processing a large amount of apple slices (such as for freezing), use 1/2 teaspoon powdered ascorbic acid or Fruit Fresh mixed with 3 tablespoons water. Toss with slices and freeze.
Apple And Onion Stuffed Roasted Chicken
This recipe is from "Robin Takes 5: 500 recipes, 5 ingredients or less, 500 calories or less, 5 nights a week at 5 p.m.," by Robin Miller (Andrews McMeel, $29.99).
1 (4-pound) roasting chicken
2 McIntosh apples, cored and sliced
1 large yellow onion, in 2 pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place chicken in shallow roasting pan. Stuff the apples and onion into the cavity of the chicken. Brush oil all over the chicken and sprinkle with oregano and thyme. Season cavity all over with salt and pepper. Roast for 70 to 80 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted deep into the breast reaches 160 degrees. Let chicken stand for 10 minutes. Serve chicken with apples and onions on the side.
Per Serving: 419 calories; 23 grams protein; 13 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams fat; 119 milligrams cholesterol; 116 milligrams sodium; 3 grams fiber
Apple Pie Salad
Cook Time: 30 minutes
This is adapted from a recipe from Ginger's Kitchen, a blog at www.food52.com.
¼ cup each all-purpose flour and raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small shallot, minced
Juice of half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
Few pinches finely chopped fresh marjoram or fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 head red leaf lettuce, washed, in bite-size pieces
1 sweet-tart apple, cored and sliced thin
2 ounces fresh chevre
Streusel: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, pumpkin seeds, oats, brown sugar, salt and 3 tablespoons of butter in a small bowl. Blend ingredients with fingers. Spread streusel on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp.
Vinaigrette: Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a small pan over medium-low heat. When the foaming has subsided and the butter has started to brown, add the minced shallot and soften for one minute. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice, a sprinkling of marjoram or thyme, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the lettuce, sliced apple and chevre with a few tablespoons of the brown butter vinaigrette. Sprinkle liberally with the pumpkin seed streusel.
Per Serving: 394 calories; 9 grams protein; 26 grams carbohydrates; 29 grams fat (16 saturated, 7 monounsaturated, 2 polyunsaturated); 60 milligrams cholesterol; 318 milligrams sodium; 3 grams fiber; 9 grams sugar; 65 percent calories from fat
Makes: 8 pancakes
This recipe is from "Rose Petal Jam: Recipes & Stories From a Summer in Poland," by Beata Zatorska and Simon Target (Tabula Books, $35).
12 ounces milk
2 tablespoons caster (superfine sugar)
11 ounces self-rising flour
4 small eating apples
2 ounces unsalted butter
Powdered sugar for decorating
Whisk together eggs, milk and sugar by hand, then fold in the flour. Add a pinch of salt, cover and set aside for 30 minutes. Peel apples, cut in half, de-core and slice thinly. Melt a knob of butter in a hot frying pan and add a dollop of the batter mix to form a pancake. Lay a slice or two of apple on top of the batter and fry for a few minutes. Turn and cook the other side. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Apple Pie Cookies
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes per batch
Makes: about 4 dozen
This recipe is from The Sacramento Bee.
½ cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
1½ cups light brown sugar, packed
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon each baking soda and cinnamon
½ teaspoon each ground cloves, nutmeg and salt
¼ cup milk
1 cup grated apple, from 1 large or 2 small, peeled
1 cup walnut pieces, toasted and chopped
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¾ cup confectioners sugar
4 teaspoons milk or half-and-half
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and blend until fully incorporated. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Add half the mixture to butter mixture, stirring until incorporated, and then add remainder of flour mixture. Add milk, then gently stir in, using a spatula or wooden spoon, the grated apple and chopped nuts. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto a parchment-paper-covered cookie sheet.
Bake 10 minutes or until cookies are golden brown. Let cool on rack for a few minutes, then slide the paper, with cookies still on it, from pan to rack and let cookies finish cooling before removing from paper. (An offset spatula works well for this.)
Caramel glaze: Combine brown sugar and butter in a small pan. Stir and bring to boil over medium heat. Simmer for two minutes. Remove from heat and add the confectioners sugar and half the milk, stirring before adding the rest of the milk, 1 teaspoon at a time. Drizzle over cooled cookies using a fork. Add a little more milk if glaze becomes too thick.
Note: To toast walnut pieces, place in a dry nonstick sauté pan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until walnuts are fragrant, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Cool before chopping.
Per cookie: 97 calories; 1 gram protein; 14 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fat (2 saturated, 1 monounsaturated, 1 polyunsaturated); 10 milligrams cholesterol; 55 milligrams sodium; 0 fiber; 10 grams sugar; 38 percent calories from fat.
Apple pie cake
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
This recipe is from The Sacramento Bee.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 cups finely chopped apples, cored but unpeeled
1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts or almonds)
2 tablespoons hot water
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In large bowl, cream together sugar and butter. Beat in egg. Sift together dry ingredients and add to batter. Add apples and nuts, then stir in hot water.
Grease a 9-inch pie plate. Pour batter into prepared pie plate. Bake in center of oven for 45 minutes at 325 degrees or until a toothpick inserted near middle comes out clean.
Serve warm with whipped cream or rum sauce.
Rum sauce: In saucepan, combine 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup whipping cream. Bring to boil. Add 1/4 cup rum and stir until blended. Serve immediately over warm cake.
Per serving without whipped cream or rum sauce: 336 calories; 4 grams protein; 44 grams carbohydrates; 17 grams fat (8 saturated, 4 monounsaturated, 5 polyunsaturated); 54 milligrams cholesterol; 242 milligrams sodium; 2 grams fiber; 30 grams sugar; 45 percent calories from fat.
Old-fashioned stack cake with Appalachian apple butter filling
Cook Time: Depends on how big you want your stack. This recipe makes one 9-inch cake with six stacks. Three stacks were baked simultaneously for 10 to 12 minutes The filling takes about an hour. Allow 24 hours for the cake to chill in the refrigerator.
1/2 cup all-vegetable shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup molasses
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Confectioners' sugar for dusting
Appalachian apple butter filling, see recipe below
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 6 (9-inch) cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper, and spray parchment paper with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, beat shortening and sugar at medium speed with a mixer until creamy. Add buttermilk, molasses, egg and vanilla, beating well.
In a large bowl, combine flour, ginger, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Make a well in center of flour mixture. Add shortening mixture, stirring just until combined.
On a lightly floured surface, form dough into a log; cut into six equal portions. Place one portion in each prepared pan, and use fingers to lightly pat dough to edges of pans.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks. Cake will have the consistency of a gingerbread cookie.
Place one cake layer on a serving plate or cake stand; spread with about 3/4 cup warm Appalachian butter filling.
Repeat procedure with remaining layers and fruit butter filling, stacking each on previous layer. Do not spread fruit butter filling on top layer. Cover and refrigerate cake for at least 24 hours. Just before serving, dust with confectioners' sugar. Nutrition information is below.
Apple pie soup
Prep Time: 30 minutes, plus chill time
Cook Time: 6 hours in slow cooker
Serves: 6 to 8
This recipe is from The Sacramento Bee.
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups water
3 cups apple cider
4 large Granny Smith (or other tart apples), peeled, cored and sliced
2/3 cup raisins
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brandy, optional
1 cup vanilla yogurt
Apple slices or chopped nuts, for garnish, optional
Combine the spices, water, cider, apple slices and raisins in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low six hours or until apples are quite soft.
Purée the soup using an immersion blender or, if using a regular blender, a partial batch at a time, until all the apple solids and most of the raisins are puréed.
Stir in the lemon juice, honey and, if using, the brandy.
Chill several hours. Just before serving, whisk in the vanilla yogurt. Serve in chilled bowls, garnishing with apple slices or chopped nuts, if desired.
Per serving, based on 8 Serves: 194 calories; 2 grams protein; 47 grams carbohydrates; trace fat; 2 milligrams cholesterol; 32 milligrams sodium; 2 grams fiber; 39 grams sugar; 3 percent calories from fat.
Appalachian apple butter filling
This recipe comes from the September-October issue of Cooking With Paula Deen. According to the magazine, stack cakes were traditional in Southern Appalachia when folks gathered for special occasions. Tradition says the number of layers in a cake was a measure of the popularity of the hosting family.
4 cups roughly chopped dried apples
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 cups apple cider (not juice)
In a large saucepan, combine the dried fruit and all the dry ingredients. Add enough liquid to cover. Bring to a low boil and cook, stirring often, for 45 minutes.
Remove from heat, and let stand for 10 minutes or until cooled slightly. Transfer to the work bowl of a food processor or container of a blender; process until smooth. Use while still warm.
Per Serving: 704 calories; 8 grams protein; 137 grams carbohydrates.; 13 grams fat (4 saturated, 5 monounsaturated, 4 polyunsaturated); 24 milligrams cholesterol; 548 milligrams sodium; 5 grams fiber; 548 grams sugar; 17 percent calories from fat.