Fall means apples-part 2

Frost Valley


The yearning for Apple pie looms large in the American unconscious. This is our dessert, the one that speaks most of home, family, craft and community.   In the spring of 2002, the performance artist Anissa Mack set up a small white cottage on the steps to the Brooklyn Public Library.  She spent all day baking apple pies in the small structure and then set them on the window sill to cool, encouraging passersby to snatch them. Saturday morning cartoons of my era were ripe with such pie theft scenarios: Yogi Bear, Tom and Jerry, Roadrunner … they all coveted that warm pie sitting out on the windowsill to cool.

Samascott Orchards, Kinderhook, NY

My earliest memories of apples revolve around a yearly family ritual of going to an orchard where we would pick up apples and cider fresh from the press.   We were living in Michigan at the time and I remember the smells of damp leaves, wood and wool, crisp fall air and the sweet smell of apples as they were pressed for cider.  The taste of that cider was so incredibly good: all natural, pure, sweet and so very fresh.

After we moved to Nebraska the apple rituals were less abundant, since Nebraska prairie land was not designed for apple orchards.   However, Nebraska City, an area along the Missouri river south of Omaha, had an unusual “mini forest” and apple orchards. Following the Homestead Act of 1862, a Nebraska senator named J. Sterling Morton passed the Timber Culture acts of 1873, giving homesteaders an additional quarter section of land if they would plant 40 acres of trees and maintain them for ten years.  There was even a tax deduction if the landowner planted one acre with 100 fruit trees.  The same senator started the Arbor Day celebration in Nebraska City to celebrate tree planting.  Of course the settlers from the east had no idea that trees and prairie land made for strange bedfellows, and many of the trees became diseased and died.  But the ones around Nebraska City took and became an anomaly in an otherwise austere landscape.

farmers market

I don’t know if Johnny appleseed ever came as far west as Nebraska but we sang the Johnny Appleseed song for grace before meals at girl scout camp in Nebraska City. Johnny Appleseed’s legacy was a perfect Midwest cocktail of religion, conservation and fertility. Appleseed (1774-1845) was a traveling pioneer nursery man who was given seeds from apple mills that were trying to drum up more business.  He went around the Midwest proselytizing for the Swedenborgian church and planting and nurturing apple orchards. I’m sure many of the apples that ended up in mom’s pies were from this region.

Ever since I was eye height to the kitchen table I remember my mother’s pie ritual.  Pie making was an activity revered in my young mind, right up there with playdough, colorforms and fall leaves pressed in wax paper.  When mom got out the rolling pin and cloth sock for the rolling pin, the pie crimper and a vinyl mat with several different circumference diagrams for the top and bottom crust, the party was on.   She must have learned from her mother as each step was automatic and resulted in the same delicious and perfect juicy pies.

Mom used winesap apples for her pies and would peel them in one perfect spiral. We could play with the left over dough and make little pies if there was enough, and I loved forming it into various shapes.  I tasted the ingredients every step of the way: the dough, bland and smooth, then the apples tossed in lemon juice and spices, crisp with an inkling of flavor that would soon be transformed through baking.cider

Years ago I was visiting a friend on Vashon Island outside of Seattle.  She made a wonderful applesauce by slicing apples from her trees with one orange and one lemon sliced thin. The fruit was laid out on a cookie sheet, baked, and then smashed together.  This is my variation on the recipe.  This uses no sugar, in fact I put a dash of salt on the apples.  Also I zest the lemons as rinds can be tough and I added some chopped ginger.  The skins add a great texture and are very healthy.  Along with Gastronomeg, most of my generation tend to forgo the apple peeling, I guess we are just too busy or into the health factor.  My farmers market carries many heirloom apples. I try different ones each time, usually a combo of sweet and tart baking apples: Rome, Gingergold, Empire, Fuji, Ashmead Kernels.

I serve this sauce with marinated pork chops, pork roast, or chorizo and it’s also great with potato pancakes with crème freiche.   The addition of chopped ginger and citrus really brighten up the sauce.marinated pork chop and roasted apple, apple sauce

Roasted Apple Applesauce

6-7 apples, a mixture of sweet and tart baking apples

juice and zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange

2 T. chopped fresh ginger

pinch of sea salt

Quarter, core and cut the quarters of the apples into 3 or 4 slices and cut the slices in half, leave the skin on.  Zest the lemon and orange, chop the zest and put it aside and toss a small amount of lemon juice with the apples and add the chopped ginger.

Take a large baking sheet with sides, rub it with butter, and put the apple slices down. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes

Put into a bowl and mash with the zest, add more lemon and orange juice if needed.  It should be chunky, the consistency of a chutney.

Marinated pork chops

4 pork chops

1 lemon

½ cup olive oil

chopped garlic


red chili flakes

sea salt

marinate pork chops (using the rest of the ingredients) for 1 hour before cooking

sear in hot pan for 3-4 minutes each depending on thickness, deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine or cider and pour over pork chop, serve  with applesauce.

A perfect fall dinner complemented with sautéed spinach, a bitter green or brussels sprouts paired with an  Alsatisan white, either pinot blanc or riesling.

fall moon

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