Apple season brings delicious delights

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 30, 2018

We’re in the midst of apple season, and despite what happened to other crops, apples have held their own.

The too hot, then too wet weather may have produced some small apples, or apples that don’t have much flavor, but there are plenty of North Carolina apples out there to last you for a while.

Don’t just buy apples in the grocery store — visit a produce stand, or better yet, venture out to any of the many orchards in western and eastern North Carolina.

Look for bright, sweet cameo apples, the extremely popular (and pricey) honeycrisp, a sweet, tart apple that’s great for snacking or cooking, the Jonathan, or Jonagold. Try a green Mutsu. Look for Pink Ladys, which are typically large and juicy, with a sweet but not too sweet flavor.

If you can find a crimson crisp, it is a smaller, very red apple with the sweet-tart of the honey crisp, and it’s less expensive. Get some rusty coats, an heirloom apple with, exactly, a rusty coat. Not pretty, but very good, especially for applesauce.

Gingergold is a sweet, yellowish apple; magna bonum is like a gentler Arkansas black, and an Arkansas black is hard and tart, but it mellows as it ages, and also makes good applesauce.

Perry Lowe Orchards on the Wilkes-Alexander county line has a wide variety, along with a variety of dried apples, cider, candy and more. It is a sixth generation orchard.

Just up the road is Sugarloaf, a fifth generation orchard which also carries items from Linney’s Mill and the Dutch Kettle line of Amish-made jams; and across the street is Deals. They also carry Asian pears, which taste like a cross between an apple and a pear.

One of my family’s favorites is Brushy Mountain Apple House, not orchard, where a friendly gentleman in overalls will help you out with a big smile.

The beauty of apples is they can be good-for-you-snacks, a sweet treat or add that little something to a savory dish.

Try adding sliced apples to your coleslaw, or toss them into your kale salad. A couple slices on a ham, chicken or turkey sandwich will turn it into an entirely new experience.

Old Fashioned Apple Cake

4 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced very thin

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 tsp. baking powder

1 cup vegetable oil

A dash of salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, place the flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, oil, vanilla, lemon juice and salt. Mix until smooth and creamy. Grease and lightly flour a 10-inch tube pan or Bundt pan.

Pour about 1/3 of the batter (it will be thick) into the pan. Place half the apple slices on top of the batter. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon generously on the apples. Spread another third of the batter on top of the apples.

Add the balance of the apples. Sprinkle on more sugar and cinnamon. Spoon the balance of the mixture over the apples.

Bake the cake for 65-70 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the cake. Remove the cake from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes. Invert and remove from pan. Cool for 10 minutes longer.

Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar or add icing, if desired.

— “Apples, Apples and more Apple Recipes,” third edition, by McGarvey Summers.

Arkansas Black Apple and Onion Preserves

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 pounds sweet onions

1 pound Arkansas Black apples, peeled and diced

1 Tbsp. salt

1 tsp. ground pepper

6 garlic cloves, sliced

2 Tbsp. thyme leaves, chopped

1 tsp. sage, chopped

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 apple cider vinegar

In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-low and add onions, apples, salt and pepper. Sweat the mixture, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and lowering temperature, if needed, to prevent the onions from caramelizing. Add garlic, thyme, sage and sugar and cook for another 15 minutes. Turn the heat up to high and once pan is hot, deglaze with the vinegar. After the vinegar has almost completely reduced, the mixture is read to cool. Store in mason jars in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

— Garden and Gun

Apple, Sausage, and Smoked Cheddar Breakfast Casserole

Serves 6 to 8

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 pound uncooked breakfast sausage links

3 cups sourdough bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 medium firm apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

8 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

10 large eggs

1 cup whole or 2% milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

3 scallions, green part only, sliced thin

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375.

Heat the oil in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. When shimmering, add the breakfast sausage and cook according to the package instructions. Transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate, and set the skillet aside without draining. When the sausage is cooled, cut on a bias into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

Add the cut sausage, bread, apples, and cheddar to the same skillet you used to cook the sausage. Stir to mix everything together.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl and whisk in the milk, cream, Dijon, salt, and pepper. Pour the eggs into the skillet.

Bake until the eggs are set and top is light golden-brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Top with scallions and serve hot.


Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples, Hazelnuts & Brown Butter Dressing

Serves 4 to 6

1/4 cup hazelnuts

12 ounces Brussels sprouts

1 small or 1/2 large crisp, red apple

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

4 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

2 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350.

Spread the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast until lightly golden-brown and the skins are peeling away, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a clean dish towel, wrap up the nuts, and let steam for a minute. Rub the nuts with the towel to remove as many skins as possible. (Not all of the skins will be removed, which is fine.) Coarsely chop the nuts and set aside.

Shave the Brussels sprouts by gripping the stem end with your fingers and using a mandoline to slice as thinly as possible down to the stem, or until the sprout is too short to safely slice. (Alternatively, you can use a food processor to shave the sprouts. Trim and discard the stems and use the slicing blade of the food processor to finely shred the sprouts.) Place the shaved sprouts in a large bowl.

Halve and core the apple, then use the mandoline to cut into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place the apple slices in a small bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons of the lemon juice to prevent browning; set aside.

Have a small Pyrex or other heatproof liquid measuring cup ready. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling occasionally, until butter is dark brown and smells nutty. Immediately pour into the measuring cup to stop the cooking. Let cool slightly.

Place the vinegar, remaining 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the brown butter until the dressing is thick and emulsified. Whisk in the oil. Taste and season as needed.

Pour the dressing over the Brussels sprouts and mix in thoroughly with your hands. Add the apples and nuts and toss to combine.


Baked Stuffed Apples

4 Jonagold or golden delicious apples

1/4 cup flaked coconut

2 tsp. granted orange zest

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1/4 cup chopped dried apricots

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

Peel the top third of the apples and core them. Arrange, peeled side up, in a microwavable baking dish. Combine the coconut, apricots and orange zest. Divide among the apples and stuff into the cores.

Combine orange juice and brown sugar and pour over the apples. Cover with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the apples are tender. Cool before serving.