Autumn in the United Kingdom and in the American Midwest is Apple Season! I've just been given my 3rd lot of apples today (9th November). Living in different countries broadens the palate as well as the mind. So, while there is the comfort of the familiar, there is sufficient difference to peak the curiosity. For example, as a girl growing up in Indiana, I ate my share of Lodi, Jonathan, Jonagold, Winesap and Breaburn apples. The best Red Delicious apples came from Washington state. And my mom's favourite apple was a Yellow Delicious--grown in Indiana and Washington state.
My first experience of Autumn in England was in 1983, when I came to Dagenham to visit a pen-pal. Arriving on 18th September, I arrived in England as the apple harvest was just beginning. It was the first time I'd ever heard of a Bramley apple, or a Pippin, a Maiden of Kent. The first year of my marriage--2003--I discovered Pink Lady apples--as my sister-in-law had a Pink Lady tree in her back garden in Kent.
The terrain and landscape of southern Indiana looks like the rolling hills of England, and Northern Ireland. The testament of the British settlers in Southern Indiana and Kentucky is witnessed by the existence of common apple varieties: Cox apples, Granny Smith's, Braeburn, and Early Transparent.
Cider making is a common practice in the American Midwest as well as here in the United Kingdom. However, in the Midwest, you could get unfermented, sweet cider. Dad would buy a couple of bags of apples and a half-gallon jug of cider. The sweet, cloudy apple juice was wonderful to drink ice cold accompanied by a bowl of salty popcorn.
With the apple season came ways of cooking and preserving. In our home we cooked apples and had them in the morning with baking-soda biscuits, bacon and eggs. We ate applesauce with pork chops for dinner. Apples were cored and sliced, put into heavy-duty freezer bags and stored in the freezer. It wasn't just Mom who took care of preserving; it was a family project. My dad didn't make biscuits, but he made great apple sauce, apple butter and helped with the peeling, coreing and canning.
Grandpa Hildebrand stood over six-foot tall, weighed near 300 pounds. He was of German descent, a pronounced nose, and deep brown eyes that sparkled with both mischief and kindness. His favourite way to eat a piece of apple pie was warm, with a piece of sharp cheddar cheese half-melted on top. I liked that too. However, depending on my mood I might prefer vanilla ice cream.
Another favourite thing to eat in the autumn is apple butter. British people look at me askance when I say applebutter. If it isn't dairy, how can it be butter? So, I've had to resort to calling it jam, or perserve for lack of a better discription. This is a great way to prepare for winter and make sure the bushel or two of apples you have don't rot before they get eaten. Basically, apple butter is a way of slow cooking apples with lots of sugar that caramelizes. You also need an acid to balance the sweetness--some sort of vinegar.
Basically, before you make the apple butter, you need to peel, core and cook the apples down to applesauce. If you don't want to peel and core, just cut up the apples, cook down and then run them through a collander to get rid of peel, cores and seeds
Here's my recipe:
4 cups (32 ounces) applesauce
2.5 cups packed brown sugar
.25 (1/4) cup cider vinegar
.25 (1/4) cup red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1) Preheat overn to 350 F/175 C/Gas mark 4.
2) Line a 2 quart casserole dish or large roasting pan with aluminium foil. This makes for easier clean-up.
3) In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour into baking dish.
4) Bake uncovered for 2.5 to 3 hours or until mixture is very thick. Stir about every half-an-hour to 45 minutes.
5) If storing in glass jars, place jars and lids in boiling hot water for at least five minutes before pouring in the applebutter. Fill jars to rim, place re-sealable lids on jar and then set aside. As the applebutter and jar cool, this creates a vacuum that seals the lid.
--If storing in the freezer, allow the apple butter to cool before placing in freezable storage containers.
This is what I did the end of October with a big bag of apples that was given to me. A good friend of mine saved honey jars for me. The batch resulted in six and a half jars. The open half-filled jar is in the fridge.
My dad used to add red hot cinnamon candy to the apple-butter. It was great! The applebutter came out all red instead of almost brown. Once again I can read a quizzical expression on the faces of my British friends. What are Red Hots? Little round cinnamon candies that are sweet and hot at the same time. And here is a website that you might find helpful: http://www.acandystore.com/red-hots-theatre-boxes-12ct.html
Another great apple season favourite is applesauce cake. Here is one of my personal perferences.
Wet Ingredients: 4 Eggs
3 cups applesauce
1.5 (1 1/2) cups cooking oil
Dry Ingredients: 3 cups sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powders
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Optional Ingredients: 1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped nuts
1) Preheat oven to 350*F/175*C/Gas Mark 4.
2) Grease and flour two 9" cake tins/ 9"x 13" cake dish. This is a large recipe--so you may need a small pan for extra batter. You can also use parchment paper to line the bottom if you are going to do a layer cake.
3) In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground clove.
4) In another large bowl, place the applesauce.
4) Add one egg and stir well. Repeat until all four eggs are thoroughly mixed in.
5) Now add in the sugar at one go, and mix well.
6) Into the wet ingredients, add the flour a little at a time, mixing well. Once this mixture is complete combined, add the raisins and/or nuts as desired.
7) Pour batter into the cake tins/baking dish. Place in oven and bake for about 50 minutes. Check it for doneness by inserting a tin bladed knife or toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean, it is done. If not done at 50 minutes, leave in the oven until done--checking every five minutes.
Remove from oven. You can serve this with a cream cheese icing, ice cream, toffee sauce, custard or eat by itself! I hope you enjoy it.
If you are stuck for other things to do with apples, check out this website--I personally have it bookmarked. http://allrecipes.com/
Now all I have to do is decide what to do with this lot of apples---hmmmm, apple pie? Apple strudel? Dutch apple pie? Apple muffins? Apple crumble? Cooked in porridge oats? So many options....
Serving Jesus, Author of our faith
Serving Jesus, Author of our faith