Thursday, October 8, 2009

seasonal cooking: apples

we have just one small apple tree in our yard, but the apples are crisp and delicious and it has produced enough apples to keep us in apple turnovers and apple crisps and crumbles. plus, sabin has run out and plucked a couple from the tree most mornings to take along to school for a snack. i sure wish i remembered what kind of apples they were. they're crisp and tart and perfect for baking, tho' they also taste good directly from the tree. ingrid maries maybe?

it's been a good year for apples. our neighbors have a couple of trees and have kept us supplied as well. mostly because they know that when we bake something with apples, they get to share in the wealth. i always make a small version of any pie or crisp for them as well, since they are like grandparents to sabin.

now, there are just a few left on the tree and i've been trying to decide which delicious recipe to devote them to. i suppose it will be my mom's apple bars, which are really an apple pie in a shallow baking tray with a bit of simple frosting drizzled over it. delicious.

mom's apple bars

1 C butter
3 1/2 C flour (my mom's original recipe calls for only 2.5 cups, but i've made this 4-5 times of late and have added at least an additional cup - maybe our flour is different here in denmark, so if you're using american flour, do try it with 2.5 cups and then add more if necessary if your dough is too sticky)
2 TB sugar
1/2 tsp salt
beat 3 egg yolks, put them into a measuring cup and fill with milk to make 2/3 C, then add it to your flour mixture)

8-10 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1C sugar
1 generous tsp. cinnamon

1C powdered sugar
enough milk to create a thin frosting (around 2T)

i throw all of the crust ingredients into my big KitchenAid food processor and let it do the work for me, but mom always mixes it in a big bowl with a mixing spoon. once it's in a nice big lump that's not too sticky to work with, you can wrap it in cling film and put it in the refrigerator while you peel the apples.

peel, core and slice 8-10 apples (depending on the size). to keep them from going brown while you're working on them, squeeze half a lemon into a bowl of water and immerse the apple slices. then pour off the water and add 1C sugar and a generous teaspoon of cinnamon and mix it well.

divide your dough in half and put a lump of it between two sheets of baking paper or waxed paper and roll it out into a size that fits your pan. the pans that came with my stove are the odd size of 33cm x 40cm (13" x 16" approx.), but they work perfectly. i line the bottom of the pan with baking paper and put the rolled out crust onto it, working it into the corners and up against the sides. roll out the other half so it fits over the top.

on the bottom layer, sprinkle a layer of cornflakes or even frosted flakes if your apples are quite tart, then spread the apples and cover with the top crust. poke a few holes with a fork. i often use the odds and ends of leftover crust to make a few leaves to decorate the top. the cornflakes aren't completely necessary, but do add something that sets it apart from a normal apple pie.

bake for 40 min. at 350F or 170C. allow it to cool a bit and then drizzle the frosting over it. if it's still a bit warm when you do this, it will soak in a bit and be even yummier.

lately, for the sake of sabin's lunch packse as we call them at our house (it's a word from when sabin was little), i've done these into little turnovers or "hand pies" as sabin likes to call them. you roll out the dough, cut rounds, pile half with apples, fold over the other half and pinch the edges closed. it makes 12-15 of these, depending how large your circles are. and they're perfect for sticking into a lunch packse for a homemade treat. sometimes i skip the frosting when i do it this way and just sprinkle a bit of sugar on before popping them into the oven. it gives a nice crunch.

* * *

inspired by the river cottage handbook no. 2 by pam corbin i recently made both an apple chutney and an apple butter, using a big bag of apples from my neighbor. the apple butter was dead simple, because you don't have to mess with peeling and coring and slicing.

apple cider butter

1.5 kilos of cooking apples, rinsed and chopped into fairly big pieces.
600ml dry hard cider
600ml water
granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

rinse and roughly chop the apples and put them in a big pan on the stove with the cider and the water, cook them gently until the apples are soft, then set aside to cool. i actually did this before going to bed one night and then did the bit with the sieve in the morning.

push the apple mixture through a sieve (or a mouli if you have one), i used an ordinary sieve and it worked very well. you should stir around with a wooden spoon to ensure you get all of the apple-y goodness out into a large bowl below the sieve.

the river cottage preserves book says to weigh the apple mixture, but i just filled it into measuring cups. add 1.5C sugar for every 2.5 cups of apple mixture you have. put it back in the pan, add the cinnamon and cloves and slowly bring it to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then boil it rapidly for 10-15 minutes, until it starts to thicken.

when it reaches a state of gorgeous chestnut, cinnamon-flecked thickness that matches how thick you'd like your apple butter, pour it into warm, sterilized jars immediately. use small jars so that it doesn't go bad too quickly after opening (i fear i used jars that were far too large). store it in the fridge after you open it. it's absolutely heavenly on your morning toast.

* * *

also from the river cottage handbook no. 2, i made an apple chutney, using one of those football-sized zucchini that had grown out of control in the garden and a big batch of green tomatoes that were never going to ripen. the sweet vinegary smell filling the house while the chutney bubbles away on the stove will be imprinted on my mind now as the very essence of autumn. it's a great way to use up those giant zucchini, the last of your tomatoes and the last of the not-so-pretty apples.

apple chutney

1 kg. giant zucchini, with the seeds removed, peeled and diced
1 kg. green tomatoes, pelled and diced.
500 grams apples, peeled, cored and diced
500 grams onions, peeled and diced
500 grams sultanas (i used less because we're not THAT fond of raisins around here)
500 grams soft brown sugar
600 ml cider or white wine vinegar
2 tsp. chili flakes if you want it to have a bit of kick
pinch of salt

a spice bag consisting of:
50 g fresh ginger root, roughly chopped
6 cloves
2 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. mustard seeds

i cut a square of plain, unbleached muslin cloth, put the spices in and tied it up with another strip of the cloth. that worked really well, but if you live near a posh kitchen store, you can undoubtedly buy fancy little space bags.

throw everything together in a pan and simmer it for 2.5-3 hours, uncovered, keeping an eye on it, stirring occasionally. when it's glossy, thick, reduced and a gorgeous deep brown, it's ready to pack into warm, sterilized jars, tap the jars against the counter to release any air bubbles and seal with a vinegar-proof seal. store in a cool, dark place. it's best to let the flavors meld a couple of months before using it, but if you can't wait, it is delicious (see, we couldn't wait). it's gorgeous with all variety of meats, but somehow seems especially good with slow-roasted pork.

* * *

there's just something so satisfying about laying aside today's bounty for the cold winter months. something i hadn't really done before this year. maybe it's global economic crisis or maybe it's just a good year for apples, but it feels right in these times. i'm looking forward to opening a jar of chutney on a cold, dreary winter day and being transported back to the golden days of autumn when we picked the apples from the tree and that fragrant goodness simmered all evening on the stove.


Bee said...

J, so much goodness here! I was dreaming of apple pie this morning, and eating an apple for breakfast didn't cure it. I'm feeling cross that I have to be away from home all day because this has really gotten me into the mood to make delicious apple things. (I bought a food mill this weekend -- to make apple butter!)

Last night C and I were reading "Farmer Boy" and Alamanzo Wilder was describing the apple turnovers (or "hand pies") he took in his lunch packse.

Elizabeth said...

Yummy. A couple of weeks ago I got ten kg apples from a collegue from my husband. Made a lot of applechutney for the winter and some pies of cause.

Handpies look like appelflappen but they are made a little bit differently. You recipe I have to try because I believe I can make it glutenfree.

MissBuckle said...

Those crispy singles look delicious. How do you make them with the corn flakes?

Anne said...

What adorable little hand pies! I'm fascinated by the idea of the cornflakes in the apple bars.

Pork with apple chutney sounds divine. I love pork and apples anyway, but with the addition of a vinegary, perhaps spicy kick? Sign me up!

christina said...

i love, love apple desserts. This is amazing, I want to roll around, in this post. : )

Kristen In London said...

What gorgeous, heart-stopping photography! I myself have been known to make an emergency apple sauce for my teenage daughter, here in London, by simply throwing cubed, peeled apples (the tarter, the better, she loves Bramleys which are bred purely for cooking) into a saucepan with apple juice, a lot of cinnamon, the juice of 1/2 a lemon and a bit of ground cloves, and it cooks down while I'm doing everything else, mashing it with a potato masher! Perfect after 20 minutes. Bless you, appreciating local apples! I will follow your blog with great interest.

julochka said...

Bee - i was reminded of the apple pies by Farmer Boy recently as well.

Elizabeth - i'll be interested to know how they turn out gluten free. i've not done much of that type of baking, so i don't know any tricks. :-)

miss buckle - i don't generally put the cornflakes in the single ones, tho' you could put a little handful on first, then the apples.

anne - pork and apples is great - i'll be sharing a very typically danish recipe for that very soon. æbleflæsk. :-)

christina - we've got to get your apple dessert up here too. as a guest post! soon!

kristin - thank you for the kudos on my photos. i blame the nikon D300 and the macro lens. :-) and i love your emergency applesauce. we'll do that next time we have a comfort food emergency around here (which will undoubtedly be soon).

Elizabeth said...

Fabulous photos.
I miss Coxes orange pippins.

Just made Apple Crumble.......from scratch of course, and of course real butter.


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