I’m one of those annoying autumn people. As soon as the nights begin to cool off, I become giddy. And one of the main reasons is apples. Yes, I know you can get apples 24/7 and 12 months a year. But none of those off-season, imported, held-in-storage imposters can hold a candle to fresh, just-picked local apples. These apples are crisp, ridiculously juicy, and bursting with incredible flavor.
There’s nothing better than biting into a perfect apple, right? Well, yes and no. Don’t get me wrong. I love eating these pristine seasonal apples as-is. Add a wedge of really sharp cheddar, and I’m in heaven. But, I am also a huge proponent of cooked apples. Something magical happens when you cook an apple, and there are myriad ways to make that magic happen.
Easy never tasted so awesome.
The first step is to hit the farmer’s market. Apples in the fall ( just like tomatoes in the summer) are the poster children for the pleasures of the farmer’s market. And, not surprisingly, you will undoubtedly buy way too many. There are, believe it or not, approximately 7,500 varieties of apples in the world. So, do yourself a favor, and buy some apples you’ve never heard of. You won’t be sorry. And, as I learned from my Mother, a great apple pie maker, always plan to use a mix of different apples in anything you’re cooking. The unique flavors and textures of different apples will boost any dish immeasurably.
I store my apples in the fridge, but that’s totally your call. I love a cold apple for eating out of hand. And if I’m cooking with them, I just let them sit out for a bit.
A major Shakesperian question you will have to address is “to peel or not to peel” I myself only peel for pies and very fancy dishes. For the rest, I love the color and extra bite the skin provides.
If you’re dealing with unfamiliar varieties, you need to taste them before cooking with them. Apples vary wildly in terms of sweetness, and firmness. Also, some varieties will hold their shape when cooked while others dissolve. (The internet is invaluable in answering that last question!) All of these variations add to the complexity of what you’re making.
What to make with your bounty of fall apples?? Though you are only limited by your imagination, I am particularly fond of:
- Using them in crisps (of course this includes buckles, bettys, grunts, slumps, cobblers, crumbles, etc.)
- Obviously, pies
- Combined with cranberries
- In chutneys
- Served with pork
- Or with sausage
- Definitely with sharp cheese
- Tossed into salads
- Folded into breads
- Added to muffins
- Stirred into stuffing
- Sliced with peanut butter (please don’t judge…I was a child once too!)
- Dehydrated into crisp chips
- Fried into fritters
- Baked in cakes
And, of course, when you have too many apples and can’t think of another thing to do, chop up what’s left, peels and all, (I even leave the cores in, to be removed later with an old fashioned food mill), put them in a pot with a lid and turn the heat on medium low, and let them transform into the best applesauce you have ever tasted. Yes, you can add a bit of water, a bit of sugar, and a tiny bit of cinnamon—but none of that is really necessary. When they are as soft as you want, just stir them enough to combine, or, as I mentioned, put them through a food mill. This will last, covered in the fridge, for at least a week. But trust me, it won’t last a week, if you know what I mean. This is the perfect essence of apples.
P.S. Be sure to put some on your toast the next morning.
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