Thursday, October 4, 2012

Apples = Fall In New England

The fall is always a busy time for me, most especially because it’s an intense time for local food. The Massachusetts harvest is in full swing, and I have been feeling the pressure to pick, freeze and can as much local produce as possible before the frost sets in. I have a special shout out for this year’s raspberries. I am sheepish to admit that this is the first year I made my way to the Wright Locke Farm, just over the Arlington line in Winchester, to pick their amazing raspberries. My jam was so yummy I returned for a second day of picking.

But what is New England without apples? While I remember picking apples in Wisconsin as a kid, I connect apples with this part of the country. And not just because Johnny Appleseed was born in Leominster (check out the fascinating profile of the hard cider-making apple profligator in Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire). The apple orchard defines the New England landscape. For a few years I've gone to Westward Orchards in Harvard, and picked from their selection of McIntosh, Cortlands, Empires and Macouns.

It's almost impossible to pick too many apples, since they last a long time in a cool dark place. In my house, though, a half-bushel disappears in a matter of weeks. If we aren't eating them straight up in lunches, we are baking them one way or another. This year my children took charge, and each developed their own apple recipe. They are simple, but simple is best when it comes to working with fresh local produce picked at the height of the season. Both apple dishes were so yummy, we ate everything before I had a chance to snap a photo.

Perfectly Appl-y Applesauce
cooked by my son, adapted from our friend Gus

About 12 apples, preferably more than one variety
2-3 T. Brown sugar
1/2 to 1 t. Cinnamon
1/2 t. Kosher salt

Peel apples if desired, then core and slice apples into about 10 slices. While you are working, place the apples already sliced into a bowl of water with half of a lemon in it to keep apples from browning.
Drain applies and add to a saucepan.

Cook on low heat until softened, about 20 minutes. If the apples appear dry after 10 minutes or so, add about a 1/4 cup of water. Once soft, gently mash the apples with a fork or potato masher. It's okay to leave a few chunks. Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and the salt. Taste, and add more sugar or cinnamon if desired. Best served warm.

This sauce will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks or in the freezer for 6 months.

Apple Crisp 
Serves 8, cooked by my daughter

About 8 apples
1 stick (8 T.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. flour
2 c. rolled oats
1/2 t. Kosher salt

Butter 8 6 oz. ramekins (or to kick up the adorable factor, use 8 oz. wide mouth mason jars, or an 8 x 8 pan). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, measure the butter, sugar, flour, oats, and salt. Using your hand (or a spoon if you don't like getting your hands dirty), cream ingredients together until the dry ingredients are coated by the butter.
Peel and core the apples. Cut apples into thick slices, then cut the slices into 3 bite size chunks. While you are working, place the apples already sliced into a bowl of water with half of a lemon in it to keep apples from browning.

Drain the apples, and divide among the ramekins. Place the crumble on top of each. Don’t worry if they are a bit full because the apples shrink during cooking.

Place ramekins on a sheet pan and bake until apples are soft and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream (or both, as we did).