“When Eve upon the first of Men, The apple press’d with specious cant, Oh! What a thousand pities then, That Adam was not Adamant!”
And what did Adam say, when asked about biting into that forbidden fruit? Why, he blamed Eve, of course. “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” (Genesis 3:12)
Adam, couldst thou not have just said, “No, thanks?”
In fact, nowhere does the Bible say that the forbidden fruit Eve gave to Adam was an apple; only that she gave to Adam and he ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden. And we all know what happened after that, of course. Or not.
Yes, I’m off on the subject of apples again, but not just Gravensteins now. It’s that time of the year and beautiful apples of every sort are to be found everywhere — farmers’ markets, supermarkets, roadside stands and local backyards. We all, I think, have a favorite summertime fruit that we wait for each year and enjoy during its too short season, whatever it may be. But apples are the comfort food of the fruit world, ripening as we’re losing summer, and staying with us as we head into winter.
Can you stock up on these jewels of the fruit kingdom, storing them for winter use? Yes, if you have a spot where you can keep them very cool (without freezing) with a fairly high amount of humidity. (Remember root cellars?) A cold, damp basement would be a good place, although they are becoming almost as scarce as root cellars in today’s homes. The crisper drawer of your fridge is also good, but obviously you can’t conveniently keep a lot of apples there.
If you want apples for cooking later in winter, you can freeze some now, while they’re comparatively less expensive and readily available. Peel, core and slice the apples, put into airtight quart containers and freeze; they can then be kept for months and will make a fresh-tasting, delicious apple pie, crisp or cake. If you want to preserve their appearance (they’ll brown a bit otherwise), sprinkle the apple slices with a mixture of half a tsp. of ascorbic acid and 2 T. water. Toss gently to distribute the mixture on the slices, then seal containers and freeze. (Or use ½ t. lemon juice mixed with 2 T. water and do the same.) If you have a dehydrator, you can always dry the apple slices to be used in many baked treats in mid-winter.
A few of our many apple varieties that freeze well are Cortland, Granny Smith, Gravenstein, Rome Beauty, Winesap, Macintosh, Pippin and Jonathan. Don’t try freezing with Red Delicious or Yellow Transparent (probably my least favorite apple, except for pie). And crabapples, by the way, also store well in that cool, dark place and freeze well.
Not all apples are created exactly the same as far as crispness, texture or flavor, but all are a good source of fiber, some potassium and Vitamin A, with only a trace of or no fat, and about 80 calories, depending on type and size.
So, gather ye apples while ye may (with apologies to Robert Herrick and his rosebuds), and let the apples of October comfort you and yours through the long, cold months of winter.
Not only did I end up hearing from three different readers about where I could find Gravensteins, I also had a number of requests for more apple recipes. I have so many, it’s difficult to pick and choose, but I’m more than happy to pass two more along to our readers now, and probably more to come. And I hope any of you who plan to make or did make the caramel apple squares from the first apple column noticed the correction to the recipe in last Saturday’s column, with the corrected butter amount, ¾ cup butter, not ¼ cup, with my apologies for the typo. Here’s another great recipe that gives you that wonderful apple/caramel combo.
CARAMEL APPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE
2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch slices
½ lb. caramels (unwrapped, of course)
½ cup plus 1/3 cup apple juice, divided (see instructions)
2 T. butter
1 cup flour
1 t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
¾ cup sugar
1 t. vanilla
Arrange apple slices in a well-greased 9×13 baking dish or pan. In a saucepan, combine the caramels with the ½ cup of apple juice; cook over med. heat until smooth, stirring frequently. Stir in butter, pour the mixture over the apples.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Beat eggs until light and fluffy; gradually add sugar, then vanilla, then remaining 1/3 cup apple juice.
Fold in the sifted dry ingredients, 1/3 at a time. Pour the batter over the apple/caramel mixture. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 min. Remove to a rack and allow cake to cool.
Loosen cake around sides with a knife then turn out upside down onto a serving platter. Serve cake topped with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream of choice (butter pecan is delicious), or drizzle each piece as served with a bit of Mrs. Richardson’s Butterscotch Caramel Sauce. (Be careful; it’s addictive!)
Apples go so well with so many things, tasty in savory dishes as well as desserts; they’re truly one of our most versatile fruits, as this “perfect for October” supper dish proves.
APPLES AND BRATS
1 t. caraway seeds
1 t. fennel seeds
1 T. Wondra flour (you probably have some on a shelf in the pantry somewhere; it dissolves quickly and is great for sauces and thickening mixtures, such as the juices in this dish)
½ t. ground black pepper
4 cups sauerkraut (preferably the packaged fresh ‘kraut in the cold counter) rinsed, drained and squeezed dry)
1 large onion, halved lengthwise then thinly sliced crosswise
3 large apples (such as Golden Delicious) peeled, cored, thinly sliced
6 whole smoked bratwurst, pierced liberally with a skewer
4 bay leaves
1 cup beef broth
2 T. dry vermouth
2 T. ketchup (or use a smoky barbecue sauce of choice)
1 ½ T. butter, melted
Place caraway and fennel seeds in a small plastic re-sealable bag and crush the seeds with a mallet. Add flour and pepper, shaking to blend mixture. Spread the sauerkraut over the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish then sprinkle 1/3 of the flour mixture over it. Arrange the onion slices over, sprinkle with half the remaining flour mixture (yes, it’s not much but you don’t need much, remember, fennel and caraway are strong flavors) and lightly salt.
Spread half the apple slices over onion layer and sprinkle with remaining bit of flour mixture. Place the bratwurst over the apples, then arrange remaining apple slices around the brats. Tuck in the bay leaves.
Mix broth, vermouth and ketchup in a measuring cup; pour the broth mixture evenly over the dish and cover tightly with foil. Have oven rack positioned in center of the oven and preheated to 400 degrees. Roast the dish for 45 min., then uncover and brush with melted butter. Continue to roast, uncovered, until the edges of the apples and brats begin to brown, about 20 min. longer. Remove from oven and serve. Serves 6.
Note: Serve this with pumpernickel or hearty whole grain bread and hot and spicy mustard. It’ll warm the cockles of your heart, as they say.