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Monday, September 26, 2011

Welcome! Apples Apples Apples!

 Hi, Food Fans! My name is Barbara and I will be your guide through the wonderful world of cooking:  foods, flavors, and techniques. We will experiment with all sorts of techniques, old and new, for your pleasure. We will check out new cookbooks and, well, lets just see where this takes us. Ready? Here goes.

September 2011:
    Apples...holy moly, am I up to my eyeballs in apples! When my husband and I relocated to upstate rural New York 25 years ago we began planting semi-dwarf fruit trees: apples, cherries, apricots, plums, pears, peaches, only to learn, the hard way, that our climate is not conducive for growing stone fruits. So the cherries, apricots, plums and peaches have not fared well. However, the apples and pears have gone WILD! Well, sorta.
   We had an exceptionally good spring and summer in 2011, weather wise, so we have a bumper crop of apples and pears from the 15 apple trees and four pear trees. What to do with all these apples? 
   First thing you need to know is that the trees have NEVER been sprayed with any kind of insecticide--ever. Fertilizer? Well, maybe the first few years we tended to the trees we might have, and neither of us actually remembers, used Miracle-Gro®, you know, the stuff they use to grow thousand pound pumpkins and what-not. We probably haven't fed the trees for the last 15 years--minimum. 
   We have apples of almost every type--except Granny Smith--the brother-in-law mowed the 2 trees down not once, but twice, and I admit I am not a fan of the Delicious varieties, I find them to be not-so delicious, but we do have a tree each of both red and yellow.
   I have made apple pie, applesauce, apple butter, and dried apples so far. I have just taken my Amish Friendship Bread starter out of the freezer...I will try to make one with some apples.
    I guess we'll start with The All-American Apple Pie
    The easiest apple pie I have ever made is accomplished by utilizing those nifty rolled pie crusts you buy in the dairy section of your local supermarket-- hey I never said this was going to be all homemade stuff--if you want to make your own crust, go right ahead, its your decision and your pie. If you don't have an apple-peeler-corer-slicer machine my advice is to GET ONE! Or you can do it the old fashioned way, peel the apples--use at least 2 different varieties for the best flavor.

  • 6-8 cups peeled apples, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice--prefer freshly squeezed, but don't fret if you use the bottled stuff
  • 1 cup of white sugar OR 1/4 cup packed brown and 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 more tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon--yes you can grind that fresh, if you must
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg*
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter cut into little tabs
  • 1 9-inch 2 crust pie crust
  • 9-inch pie tin, plate, pan -- I usually spray it lightly with cooking spray--just to be sure it comes out
   Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare your crusts and ease the bottom into the pie plate. I add the apples to the lemon juice as I am peeling them to prevent them from getting too dark. Toss the 1 cup of sugar, flour, and spices with the apples. Pour into your pie crust. Put the tabs of butter around the top of the apple filling (that prevents the apples from foaming--something fruits do when they're getting cooked). Cover with the second crust, seal and flute**, poke the top of the crust with a fork 3 or 4 times in a spoke fashion, toward the middle, sprinkle top with the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Here you can either use a pie ring or cover the edge with foil to prevent over browning, but I usually just let it ride. Place pie on a cookie sheet to catch the drippings and put in oven. It takes about 50 minutes, sometime longer. this is not an exact science. You'll smell the apples and it will be bubbling up through the vents. If you used a glass pie dish you can look to see that the crust is browned on the bottom. If not...well next time you'll know to keep it cooking a little longer. Sorry, that's the best I can tell you. but most cooking is just one experiment after another, that's where the fun comes in!
   Let the pie cool at least 30 minutes, and longer will be even better, so the juices can tighten up a bit. I serve mine with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, while it is still quite warm, and even reheat it in a warm oven the next day for the same effect.

Okay, now let's address the *'rd items:

* 1/8 freshly ground nutmeg--okay you can use the ground stuff you have hiding in the back of your pantry, but trust me, freshly grinding whole nutmeg is by far superior to even a brand new can of the store bought ground stuff. I use a rasp and just rub the whole nutmeg over the bowl, the aroma is divine, and just eyeball the measurement. Its all good.

** seal and flute: To seal the pie, gently fold the top crust over the edge of the bottom crust, and press together. Yes there will be a double layer of crust, all the more to flute! As for fluting I use my fingers this way: with the pie in front of me, I use my right index finger to push the dough gently between my left thumb and index finger, into a point. Viola! that's all there is to it. See simple. I told you!

Let me know how yours comes out!

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