If you were a sweet, luscious, crisp, and chunky apple, you’d probably be in ecstasy coated in caramel while plump and perched on a sturdy stick. Or perhaps you’d like to be sliced and swimming in sugar, a little lemon juice, maybe some raisins, and baked into a flakey, buttery, fragrant crust. How about simply being the apple of someone’s eye as you roll around in behemoth bins of other McIntoshes, Empires, Cortlands, Honeycrisps, Paula Reds, Macouns, Baldwins, Northern Spies, Mutsus, Galas and Goldens–just waiting for someone to select you for fritters or an after school snack?
While our thoughts may not entirely have come around to crisp mornings, falling leaves, and warm wool sweaters, and closing up the neighborhood pool may still be weeks away, apple orchards are beginning to yield their autumn bounty with prime picking and some 2,500 varieties available in the United States alone. In fact the second week in August is designated as National Apple Week.
Growing on small, deciduous trees, pomologists, or experts in the study of pome fruit which includes apples, tell us there are at least 7,500 varieties throughout the world–which can make for a lot of cider and apple pie. First brought to the new world by colonists in the early 17th Century, the very first North American apple orchard is said to have been planned and executed near Boston in 1625. And we all know the legend of the benevolent Johnny Appleseed, nee John Chapman, who introduced apple trees to parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Throughout the centuries, abundant orchards have yielded sweet and savory apple recipes that evolved from crisps, crumbles, and dumplings all the way to modern purees, butters, dried fruit snacks like fruit rolls, stews, sauces, salsa, stuffing, smoothies, and chutneys.
While many varieties are cultivated for eating (who doesn’t love a pungent Granny Smith with a heaping spoonful of natural peanut butter?!), some, like the crisp yet tender Mutsu, the Cortland, and the Golden Delicious are poised more for cooking and baking. Try making chunky applesauce with all three and a little honey and cinnamon; serve warm over vanilla ice cream.
Whether you prefer your apples straight from the orchard or fridge as a quick, crunchy, healthy snack, sliced into sweet desserts, or as part of a warm, comforting main dish, nothing announces autumn like a firm, shiny apple. Try these recipes that celebrate National Apple Week and the soon-to-be-here bright days of fall.
Baked Beans with Apples
1/2 teaspoon regular mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried mustard
1 teaspoon instant coffee
2 onion, chopped
3/4 cup white sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Boiled water (to moisten and help dissolve dry ingredients)
4 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped, preferably Mutsus or Cortlands
1 1/2 pounds dried beans divided into ½ pound soldier and 1 pound yellow–soaked overnight (reserve bean water for later)
1 package salt pork (about a 2-by-4-inch piece) sliced thin
Preheat oven to 350°. Mix together both mustards, coffee granules, onions, sugar, salt (go lightly because of salt pork), pepper, water to moisten. Spray large, heavy pot with cooking spray. Layer as follows: 2-3 pieces salt pork (always put pork on bottom to prevent other ingredients from sticking), apples, moistened ingredients from above, beans. Continue layering until all ingredients are used up and pot is full. Cover and bake all day, stirring every so often. If appearing dry, add some of the reserved bean water. If too wet, cook uncovered for a while.
Dish can be apportioned and frozen in freezer bags if desired. If freezing, do not cook beans beyond firm or they will be mushy when defrosted.
Mango Apple Salsa
1 large baking apple such as Granny Smith
1 small mango (should be ripe but firm)
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves, or crushed mint flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
Peel, core, and dice apple into small pieces. Toss with a splash of lemon or lime juice to avoid discoloration. Set aside. Peel, core, and chop small mango into small pieces. Add to chopped apple. In small bowl combine apple, mango, onion, tomato, and jalapeno. Mix gently. Add mint leaves and lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir and cover. Refrigerate for one hour or overnight.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
3/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk
2 tablespoons wheat germ
3 small tart apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Cinnamon and sugar mixture for topping
Preheat oven to 375°. Grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners. In a bowl, mix together flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, apple juice concentrate, and buttermilk or sour milk.
Stir flour mixture and wheat germ into the egg mixture until dry ingredients are just moistened. Gently stir in about 2/3 of the chopped apples and chopped walnuts or pecans.
Spoon batter into prepared muffins cups, filling each about 2/3 full. Top muffins with reserved chopped apple and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake apple muffins for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until tops spring back when pressed lightly with fingertip. Cool for 5 minutes in pan on a rack. Turn apple muffins out onto rack to cool completely.