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Fresh From The Apple Orchard

Apple season is upon us once again, along with fun, frolicking trips to u-pick farms. Or perhaps you’re lucky enough to simply walk outside your back door, pluck one off the tree, and let your teeth sink into the crisp, sweet taste of a sun-warmed apple.

This is one of the best times of the year for whipping up a breakfast, dessert, or late-night casual supper using one of nature’s perfect foods. When it comes to taste and nutrition, fresh apples can’t be beat.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been a believer of my grandmother’s advice—an apple a day, yes, keeps the doctor away.

CARAMEL APPLE PIE
2 (9-inch) unbaked pie shells
5-6 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 Tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 stick unsalted butter
Egg white

Topping
1/3 cup flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup crushed salted peanuts

Preheat oven to 450°. Sprinkle apples with lemon juice in large mixing bowl. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl and add apples. Toss to mix and add vanilla and cream. Melt butter over low heat in large, heavy skillet and add apple mixture. Cook about 6 to 8 minutes just until apples soften. Pour into pie shell.

To make topping, combine flour and sugar and mix in butter with fork until crumbly. Add crushed peanuts and stir. Sprinkle over pie. Add top crust; seal and flute edges. Cut a few slits in top to vent. Brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Put pie on preheated baking sheet, bake 20 minutes, and reduce heat to 350°. Continue baking an additional 40 to 50 minutes at lower temperature until golden brown. Oven temperatures often vary, so check often the last 10 minutes of baking. Serves 8.

HONEY BAKED APPLES
4 cups good quality apple cider
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of salt
2 Tablespoons butter
6 Golden Delicious or McIntosh apples
1/2 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium saucepan, combine cider, sugar, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and butter. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer 25 minutes until mixture is syrupy.

Do not peel apples, but halve and core apples with a melon baller. Place apples cut side down in large baking dish and pour syrup over them. Distribute raisins evenly over apples. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until apples are almost tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove from oven and turn apples over. Baste with syrup several times and re-cover with aluminum foil. Return to oven 5 minutes, remove, and allow to sit, covered, an additional 15 minutes. Baste before serving. Serves 6.

SLICED SWEET POTATOES AND APPLES
2 cups apple juice or cider
3 large sweet potatoes
4 large Gala, Granny Smith, or Braeburn apples, sliced
Ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon butter

Boil sweet potatoes, unpeeled, until fork tender. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Slice apples and simmer until tender in apple juice that is flavored with a sprinkling of cinnamon and butter. Peel sweet potatoes and alternate slices on a plate with apple slices. Sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon if desired. Serves 4-6.

APPLE PECAN PANCAKE
1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces
3 Tablespoons butter
2 large apples peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs, beaten
1-1/4 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup flour
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 400°. Toast pecan pieces until brown and nicely toasted. Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in an iron skillet or a very heavy one. Add apples, sugar, and cinnamon and cook over medium-low heat until apples are very tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add pecan pieces and continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add remaining butter, stir, and remove from heat.

Combine eggs, milk, baking powder, and flour, and stir or whisk until just blended—no longer. Pour batter over apples and bake until golden brown and puffy, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, dust with powdered sugar, and serve warm. Serves 4.

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