I love to go apple picking. I know what you’re thinking. What does this New York City boy know about plucking fruit from a tree? Well, you’d be surprised. Just about this time of year, we join a few of our closest friends and trek Upstate New York to a perfectly beautiful apple orchard and winery, appropriately clad in plaid and jeans. After renting our apple picking gear, we head out to the orchard and, well, go a-pickin’. After we’ve gathered our bushels of fruit, we shop a bit at the rustic country store to purchase our apple butter, apple pies, and apple cakes – munching on apple cider donuts the whole time. It’s a perfectly enchanting day, and I look forward to it every year. I especially love the way the car smells of fragrant fruit after our journey home.
Of course, you don’t have to pluck your own to enjoy the abundance of apples in local markets this autumn. Roadside produce stands and even supermarkets display truckloads of the finest. But what to choose? When I was a kid, my mom always purchased Red or Golden Delicious. These are great. However, the number of apple varieties available now is simply mind boggling. I can’t describe all of them here, but I can tell you something about my favorites.
Let’s begin with the Cortland. I found this to be one of the crispest varieties. It also doesn’t brown quickly, so it works well in salads, such as a Waldorf. Granny Smiths are also wonderfully tart and crisp in salads. I must say, though, that the spicy perfume of the McIntosh is what really says autumn to me. I adore its tartness in apple pies, but you’ll enjoy it for out-of-hand munching, too. The Gala is also excellent for fresh eating – very firm, juicy and slightly tart. Really nice with cheese, crackers, and wine. If you’re taking to the kitchen this fall, Empire and Rome apples are extremely high-quality cooking and baking fruits, just the right sweetness and texture. The Jonagold is also perfect for pies and cakes since its firm and juicy flesh stands up well to the heat of your oven.
Those are just some of my favorites. Now on to the apple goodies. Those baked or cooked creations I just can’t get enough of this time of year. The apple pie, of course, takes center stage. Just the right combination of apples, sugar, and spices all enrobed in a buttery, flaky crust. Who can resist it? Served a la mode, or with melted cheddar cheese – any way you like, I’m game. I’m also in love with apple strudel. A traditional Viennese dessert, this oblong pastry enfolds flaky crust around an aromatic filling of apples and spices, studded with plump raisins. Just adore it!
Need more? How about an apple crumble. Don’t you just love the way the texture of the crunchy crumbs contrasts with the steaming apple filling? Or apple fritters – battered apple slices fried to a golden goodness. Has to be great, right? Or apple cake, moist and nutty. Whipped cream on the side a must here. Even a simple baked apple, topped with brown sugar and cinnamon. Luscious.
You know, apples also pair well with savory foods. Mom often treats us to pork chops sautéed with apples and sauerkraut. It really is outstanding. I like to fry apples and onions in butter as a side dish. Especially nice with pork roast. I also use chopped apples in my holiday stuffings. They add the perfect sweet-tart note that complements sage and sausage so well. I’ve even been known to include thinly sliced apple strings in my stir fries. Really!
OK, I’m an apple fanatic. But one thing’s for sure. Whether you’re plucking from a tree or picking at a stand, you need to get out there and bring home nature’s quintessential fall fruit. As for myself, I’m off to the orchard.
The Unsinkable Apple Pie
Just to come clean here, the recipe was originally posted last spring when Phyllis and I were just beginning to collaborate.
We got such a great response we decided to repost the same recipe because it’s so fricking good.
For those of you who missed this the first time around enjoy, For those who have already read the recipe
and feel slighted I promise to have a new recipe next week.
The classic American pie often displays an empty space between the top crust and the apple filling because the apples sink considerably in the baking. Of course, there is the crumb topping, but my favorite part of a pie is a rich flaky crust. I have experimented and tweaked the classic recipe and, I believe, improved on it not only by eliminating that empty space by partially cooking down the apples, to begin with and straining off excess juice but also by using an instant tapioca thickener, 3 varieties of apples, candied ginger and Calvados. The tapioca perfectly thickens the filling leaving it neither runny nor dense. The variety of apples and the candied ginger add a complexity of taste and the Calvados gives it just the right kick.
Dough for the bottom crust:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 T superfine sugar
1 t salt
4 T butter
4 T Crisco
1 egg yolk
Repeat ingredients for top crust.
3 Golden Delicious apples
3 Macoun apples
3 Granny Smith apples
¾ cup sugar
juice and zest of 1 lemon
4 pieces candied ginger, cut into a small dice
1 t cinnamon
¼ t freshly grated nutmeg
2 T instant tapioca
¼ cup Calvados
2 T butter
egg wash of 1 beaten egg yolk
1 T turbinado (raw) sugar
For bottom crust, place flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor with metal blade in place. Pulse just until mixed. Add butter and Crisco in 1-tablespoon pieces and egg yolk. Process until only pea-size pieces of fat remain. Distribute 3 tablespoons ice water over mixture and process just until mixture holds together when pinched between fingers. Add a little more water if necessary. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a half hour. Repeat process for the top crust. Better results are obtained if each crust is made separately.
While pie dough is chilling, make the filling. Peel and core apples. Cut each quarter into 4 slices. As slices are placed in a bowl, add sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest from time to time and toss. Add candied ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon into a saucepan and cook stirring from time to time on moderate heat until apples reduce but are not cooked through. Mix in 2 tablespoons instant tapioca. Remove from heat and stir in Calvados. Let cool. Strain and save juice. Straining the juice is an important step to assure the firm filling you see in the photo.
Roll out bottom pie crust to a 12-inch round and fit into a 9-inch pie pan. Trim overhang. Spoon apple filling into bottom crust, mounding in the center. Scatter 2 tablespoons butter cut into small bits onto filling. Roll out top crust to a 12-inch round, place over filling, trim overhang and crimp edges. Make 3 or 4 cuts in top crust to let steam out. Lightly brush crust with egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Place pie on the middle shelf of a preheated baking sheet in a 450-degree oven for 10 minutes then turn down to 350 and bake for 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and thick juices are bubbling up. Cool on rack. Simmer the juice you have saved until thickened to a syrupy consistence. Serve pie with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream over which you have ladled 2 T of the apple syrup. Generously serves six.
Photographer Bill Brady http://bit.ly/9wFYxm
Written by Victor Ribaudo theribaudogroup.com theribaudogroup.com
Recipe Provided by Phyllis Kirigin, aka sweetpaprika http://sweetpaprika.wordpress.com http://sweetpaprika.wordpress.com
Food Stylist Brian Preston Campbell
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