Fall is a magical time of year for apples. It feels like a true connection with my American heritage. Juice, cider, hard cider, vinegar; pies, sauces, betty’s and crumbles. A simple satisfying bite and snap of the skin as the juice dribbles into my mouth.
When I was growing up in a state that begins with an “I”,my parents would buy a gallon of apple cider and let it sit on the attic stairs to ferment, turning it into hard cider. The container had to be opened to release the gathering gasses. There had been some close calls with bulging plastic containers. My father would taste a bit to determine if it was ready. I never really liked the bubble feel on my tongue or the slightly sour flavor but it was a seasonal family drink.
Apple cider emerged again when I was living with three other women. It was an ex- tavern built in 1747. On a cold night you could feel the wind scuttering over the wide floor boards. One of my roommates was fond of hot cider with cinnamon and a healthy splash of Captain Morgan’s dark rum. Served in a large coffee mug it chased the chill away and left fond memories. I still drink my hot cider this way with a nod to the roommate.
As a young wife I discovered making applesauce. At first I dutifully peeled the apples before cooking them, rendering a pale yellow brown sauce. One day I left the peels on and strained it afterward. The sauce was a beautiful pale pink. It was added to my growing repertoire.
I also discovered a chopped apple added to cranberry sauce softened the sourness. It sits next to the canned cranberry jelly on our Thanksgiving table.
My mother wasn’t a pie person but made crumbles instead. Easy, satisfying, a crunch of cinnamon flavored oatmeal any fruit would do but apples were the best. It took me awhile and a second husband to gather up the courage to make pie dough and an apple pie. Although the first attempt was tasty the gap between top of the pie shell and the apples didn’t look right.
One of my epiphanies was in talking to a friend of mine who was a chef. We were living in a state that begins with “M”and he was from apple country. He told me to always use as many different kinds of apples as I could find thereby giving as much depth to the dish. Made sense to me and I filed it away.
Moving to a state that begins with “O”, and another recipe, I discovered perfection. It was an interesting technique. Instead of putting fresh apples into the shell etc., the night before you cut the apples, added seasonings and let them sit at room temperature. When ready to make the pie you drained the apples, poured them into the shell, thickened the drained juices and poured it over as well.By making the pie this way the apples lost their volume before baking and the pie stayed high and the juice was thick. I don’t look for apple pie recipes any more.
I’ve made beautiful duck and pork sauces with shallots, apples, apple brandy, cream and stock. The ultimate caramel apples for a catered Halloween party were also drizzled in dark and white chocolate and packed with chopped walnuts. My Thanksgiving stuffing isn’t complete without chopped apples.
Apples store well but in time they lose their crunch. The season closes but I have learned patience and wait for another fall and its apple richness.
The Ultimate Apple Pie
I found this recipe in my local newspaper in 1997 and with a few twists of my own think it is the best! The filling must be made at least 8 hours or 1 day ahead.
Try this pie dough recipe as well. I multiply the recipe 4 times using about 5 pounds of flour, making it on my bread board. Once made, I weigh out ¾ pound portions wrap in plastic wrap, label and freeze. I’m ready for pie and pasty season.
Vinegar Pastry Makes 2 8 inch or 9 inch double crust pies.
1 ¼ C Butter or Shortening (I use half butter half non-hydrogenated shortening) cut in
3C All-purpose flour
1t Kosher Salt
1 Egg (I use 1/4C Egg beaters)
1T White or Cider Vinegar
5T Ice Water
Put flour in food processor and cut the butter in chunks over the flour. Add the salt. Pulse the mixture several times until the butter is about the size of small peas.
Mix the egg, vinegar and ice water together and with the processor running slowly pour the liquid down the feed tube. As soon as the dough binds together remove it and put it on a floured board. With the heel of your hand, push the dough 3 times away from you. Gather it, divide in half, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Apple Pie Filling
9-10 Assorted Apples (about 9 cups) peeled and sliced
1/2C Granulated Sugar
1/2C Firmly packed Dark Brown Sugar
1T Ginger Preserves
1 ½ t Ground Cinnamon
1/4t Ground Nutmeg
1/4t Kosher Salt
2T Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
1/4C All-Purpose Flour
Place the sliced apples in a large bowl and add sugars, preserves, spices, vanilla, salt and lemon juice. Mix well, cover and let sit at room temperature for 8-24 hours.
Preheat oven to 425°.
*Position the oven rack in the middle.
*Roll out one piece of pastry for the bottom crust and place in a pie pan.
*Using a strainer; drain the apples reserving the liquid and combining it with the flour.
*Mound the apples in the pie pan and pour the reserved juice evenly over them. Dot with butter.
*Roll out the second pastry and put on top. Crimp or seal the edges and pierce the top several times with a fork. Sprinkle with granulated sugar.
*Bake 15 minutes then reduce the temperature to 350° and continue to bake 45-60 minutes or until the apples are tender when pierced.
*If the edges are getting too brown, cover them with strips of foil until the pie is done.