I asked some people what food comes to mind when fall arrives. Answers included comfort foods, “anything” pumpkin, pies, and “everything” apples: pie, cider, and apple cider doughnuts. “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away!” as the saying goes.
Apple picking is a popular autumn family activity, and what better way to embrace the season than to gather in the kitchen to prepare some dishes with the “crop” you have just picked. It draws us to the kitchen, because we think, “now what am I going to do with all of these apples?”
Just thinking about the cinnamon aroma of an apple pie baking in the oven is a simple pleasure.
Americans eat more apples per capita than any other fruit, on average 45.5 pounds, including 65 fresh apples per year. It was of interest to learn that 2,500 of the 7,500 varieties available globally are grown in the United States. Apples are grown commercially in 32 states, with the top 10 producers being Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Virginia, North Carolina, Oregon, Ohio and Idaho.
The U.S. Apple Association has a wealth of information — everything you want to know about apples, but were afraid to ask. ... Did you know:
— Apples are grown in all 50 states.
— The pilgrims planted the first apple trees here, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
— The largest apple picked weighed three pounds.
— World’s top apple producers are China, the U.S., Turkey, Poland and Italy.
— The old saying, “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away,” comes from an old English adage, “To eat an apple before going to bed, will make the doctor beg his bread.”
— Don’t peel your apple. Two-thirds of the fiber and lots of antioxidants are found in the peel. Antioxidants help to reduce damage to cells, which can trigger some diseases.
— Almost one out of every four apples harvested in the U.S. is exported.
— The crabapple is the only apple native to North America.
— Most apples are still picked by hand in fall.
— Apples are a member of the rose family.
— The top 10 apple varieties sold in the U.S. are Gala, Red Delicious, Fuji, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Cripp’s Pink/Pink Lady, Braeburn and Jazz.
The Connecticut Apples website has “bushels” of apple information, children’s activities, recipes and where to pick apples throughout the state.
I was excited to add “Apple Recipes from the Orchard,” by James Rich (2019, Hardie Grant Books, $29.99) to my collection. The beautiful photo of a variety of colorful apples on the cover is what caught my attention. There are so many creative recipes using apples in the book. Rich, the son of a cider maker, celebrates America’s favorite fruit in all its forms for sweet and savory dishes that utilize everything from the apple blossom to all kinds of varieties. He shares traditional recipes using the fruit and creative twists using flavor combinations ranging from delicate and complementary to floral, bold and sharp.
Recipes, coupled with beautiful photography with stylistic charm, the book will conjure a nostalgia for simpler times and a slower pace of living. The author is no stranger to apples; his family has been making a living from the fruit for centuries. He grew up helping his father, planting, pressing the apples, and helping clean the giant oak vats used during the fermenting process. He is a passionate home cook who, as a youngster, was encouraged by his grandmother to explore food and flavor. He got the idea for this book from rediscovering old family recipes and a wealth of family knowledge gleaned from years of watching the fruit grow and harvesting it in the orchard.
First, he explains the history of the apple, his family’s background in cider making, and the categories and varieties of the fruit. Chapters include “Light Bites,” such as nutty apple granola, soups and salads; “Feasts,” with recipes for flavorful dinners from spiced pumpkin to apple and cider stew to chicken, cider and cheddar crumble (recipe below); “Sides and Sauces,” including apple and red cabbage slaw, chutneys, jams and relishes; my favorite category, “Sweet Things,” classic American apple pie, apple raspberry almond cake (recipe at https://bit.ly/2kwyRZY, autumn fruit pavlova, apple crumble ice cream and homemade toffee apples; and “Drinks,” from cider brandy hot toddy to mulled apple juice with rhubarb and ginger. When it comes to apple recipes, Rich has you covered.
The headnote says, “The three Cs crumble! This makes for a warming, wholesome supper and can be made ahead of time and chilled until needed. Just leave the final baking until about half an hour before you want to serve.”
For the crumble:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil in a large frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat and fry the onion, celery and carrots for 5 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and mushrooms and fry for a further 3 minutes.
Add the chicken and oregano to the pan and continue frying for another 10 minutes until the chicken has cooked through and is beginning to brown. Cut the apple into 8 wedges, add to the pan and fry for a further 2 minutes.
Next, add the mustard and stir in well. Then pour in the cider and increase the heat. Cook on a high heat for 3-5 minutes until the alcohol has burnt off and liquid has reduced by about a quarter. Turn off the heat, stir in the crème fraîche and season to taste with salt and pepper. Then transfer to a large baking dish.
To make the crumble topping, put the flour, mustard powder and some salt and pepper in a bowl and mix together. Add the butter, then rub between your fingers and thumbs until you have a breadcrumb-like mixture. Stir in the cheese and hazelnuts and mix well.
Top the apple, chicken and cider with the crumble and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until the crumble is golden brown and crunchy. Serve with your favorite vegetables. Serves 6.
The headnote says, “There’s nothing better on a cool autumn evening than a warming bowl of spicy soup. Apples are great in soups, especially Bramleys. They break down adding a base note of sweetness while enhancing the other flavors in the dish. I love this recipe; in my mind it’s the perfect balance of savory, sweet and spicy. If you want to take the heat up a notch, you can add more chili (hot pepper) flakes at the end, but don’t go over the top with the turmeric. It’s a bold and confident flavor that can easily overpower, but used correctly will provide a golden warmth.”
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the leeks, onion and fennel and fry for 5-7 minutes until everything starts to become translucent but without allowing it to brown. Keep an eye on the mixture as you don’t want anything to burn or stick at all.
Add the apples and thyme and fry for a further 2-3 minutes to allow the apples to start to cook.
Then add the turmeric and give everything a good stir to coat all the ingredients in the pan equally. Fry for another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. The fruit and vegetables will start to stick and go slightly brown — that’s OK at this point, but you don’t want them to burn.
Add the vegetable stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring the pan to the boil for a minute and then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes. The fruit and vegetables need to be nice and soft and thoroughly cooked. You might need a little more or less time here, so keep watch.
While the soup is cooking, heat a non-stick frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat and toast the walnuts for a couple minutes, ensuring they don’t burn.
Add a little apple syrup or honey to the nuts, shaking the pan, until it begins to bubble and the walnuts are thoroughly coated. Turn the walnuts out onto a plate lined with baking parchment and leave to one side to cool.
Once the soup is cooked, leave to cool slightly before whizzing in a food processor in batches or blitz with a hand-held blender in the pan. You need to get it really smooth. If it’s too thick, add a little water or more stock.
Serve by filling bowls with soup and topping with the caramelized walnuts, a sprinkle of chili flakes, some fennel leaves and a drizzle of olive oil — or any combination you like. Serves 4.
DESPERATELY SEEKING: A Chef du Jour request: Susan Stevenson of Branford wrote, “Last week I had dinner at Strega in Branford for the first time. I felt I was back in Italy. Molto bene! What I love about eating in Italy is that one can never discern the individual taste of garlic, of which I am not a fan. In Italy and at Strega, garlic is used in every dish but with a subtlety I wish Italian American chefs would use. The food is fresh and delicious, just like in Umbria and Tuscany where every meal I had was fabulous. Both owner and chef are Italian, we will go back and are spreading the word.
Susan, thanks for your request. I will contact the chef and owner to see if I can schedule an interview so I can publish a “Chef du jour” column.
“Oyster Feed” Festival, Sept. 29, 2:30 p.m., Stone Acres Farm, 393 N. Main St., Stonington, $50 plus tax and gratuity, includes all-you-can-eat oysters and other small plates. Cocktails, beer and wine are available for purchase. Chefs present oysters in several preparations (raw, roasted and stewed) and other food like Grass & Bone’s house-made sausages and Stone Acres’ farm vegetables. Tickets and details at https://bit.ly/2m2UVeS.
Consiglio’s Demonstration Cooking Class: Oct. 17, 6:30 p.m., Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, 203-865-4489 (reservations required), $75 (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). Menu: Portobello with Gorgonzola, Sun Dried Tomato and Pine Nuts, Radicchio, Fennel and Olive Panzanella, Veal Piccata, Limoncello Tiramisu. https://bit.ly/2Nd0xAg