Monday, September 10, 2012

Come fall, there’s nothing like a sweet, crunchy apple.

The tradition of “an apple for the teacher,” probably got its start many years ago. Apples were abundant and easily picked on the way to school. This tradition at the beginning of the school year, most likely originated in New England when teachers were poorly paid. Food and other necessities were often given to teachers to supplement their salaries.

In the backyard of my childhood home on Terrace Drive, we had three apple trees. I recall attempting to use the long, heavy apple picker to pick the fruit. I also recall being assigned to pick up the fallen apples.

My mom is a wonderful and patient baker, and apple pie has always been one of her specialties. As a child I would steal apple slices coated in cinnamon and sugar from the mixing bowl before they filled the pie crust.

Each fall I ask my mom to bring me a Pokey’s caramel apple or two or three. I have been known to be pretty stingy with my caramel apples.

This fall apple orchards in Iowa are less than abundant. The orchards have fewer apples to harvest, and buyers will pay a higher price. In March the trees bloomed early, but the April freeze damaged or destroyed much of the apple crop.

Facts about Apples from
— Pomology is the science of growing apples.
— The average person eats 65 apples per year.
— Apples float because 25% of their volume is air.
— China produces more apples than any other country.
— Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania and California are the top 5 apple-producing states in the U.S. In all, 36 states produce apples commercially.
— The apple is the official state fruit of Washington, New York, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
— There are more than 7,500 varieties of apples grown in the world. About 2,500 varieties are grown in the United States.
— Red Delicious is the most-popular and most-produced apple in the United States.
— Golden Delicious is the second-most-popular.
— The only apple native to North America is the crabapple.
— Half the United States apple crop is turned into apple products like applesauce and apple juice.
— It requires about 36 apples to produce 1 gallon of apple cider.
— Apple trees don’t bear their first fruit until they are 4 or 5 years old.
— Archaeologists have evidence of people eating apples as far back as 6500 B.C.

n Apple, Cheddar and Bacon Monte Cristos

My favorite sandwiches are Reubens and Monte Cristos. I often make Monte Cristos for a quick dinner for my family. Rachael Ray’s version includes thin slices of apple to add a bit of sweetness and crunch.

12 slices bacon
8 slices peasant or French bread
½-¾ lb extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
2 Golden Delicious or Gala apples, cored and very thinly sliced
3 large eggs
½ cup whole milk or half-and-half
freshly grated nutmeg
butter, for greasing
warm maple syrup, for drizzling

 Cook bacon until crisp. Arrange four slices of bread with some cheese and the apples on top. Beat the eggs with the milk (or half-and-half) and a little nutmeg.

Heat a large griddle pan over medium heat. When ready, arrange three slices of bacon on each sandwich and top with a little more cheese and four more slices of bread. Coat each sandwich in the egg batter. Grease the griddle with butter and griddle the sandwiches until deep golden on each side and the cheese has melted. Halve the sandwiches and drizzle with a little warm syrup.

n Pork Chops with Apples and Garlic Smashed Potatoes

This recipe from Food Network Magazine is perfect for a cool fall evening. The addition of tart Granny Smith apples and apple cider add just the right amount of sweetness to this savory dish.

1 lb small fingerling potatoes
2 cloves garlic
Kosher salt
4½ inch-thick boneless pork loin chops (5 oz each)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, cut into ½ inch wedges
2 Granny Smith apples, cut into ½ inch pieces
¾ cup apple cider
¼ cup buttermilk

Place the potatoes and garlic in a saucepan, cover with cold water and season with salt. Cover and bring to a boil, then uncover and continue cooking until tender, about 15 minutes. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, rub both sides of the pork chops with the sage, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat a large, heavy skillet over high heat, then add 1 teaspoon olive oil and sear the chops until golden on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. Wipe out the skillet and add the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add the onion and apples and cook over medium-high heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the cider.

Return the chops to the skillet. Cover and cook, turning once, until just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain the potatoes, reserving 1/4 cup liquid. Return the potatoes to the pan; add the buttermilk and mash, adding cooking liquid as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with the pork chops, onion and apples. Drizzle with the pan juices.

n Baked Apples

Paula Deen’s old-timey baked apples are a way to showcase the season’s harvest.

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup sugar
6 same-size Granny Smith apples
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 6 teaspoon-size pieces
1 cup apple juice
6 sprigs fresh mint

 Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside. Core apples, making sure not to puncture the bottom of the apples so that the juices will remain. Remove skin from ½-inch around top of apples at the opening. Fill each cavity with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Top each apple with a teaspoon of butter. Place apples in a casserole dish and pour apple juice around them. Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from heat, garnish with fresh mint, and serve.

n Apple Bread

This apple bread recipe hails from Puffin Inn in Ogunquit, Maine and is full of cinnamon and chunks of apples.

3 cups flour
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups diced apples (without skins)
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 teaspoon flour

 Mix flour, cinnamon, soda, salt and baking powder together. Beat eggs and add sugar and oil. Add vanilla and dry ingredients. Stir in apples. Mix walnuts in a teaspoon of flour and add to batter. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

n Apple Cake

Depending on your taste, this cake can be baked to your liking. I prefer apple cake as it is, but pecans and/or raisins can also be added.

3 tablespoons sugar
3 cups sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1½ cups vegetable oil
3 eggs
3 cups chopped apples (about 3 apples)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
½ cup raisins (optional)
prepared frosting, melted (from a can) or homemade

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 10-inch tube pan, combine 3 tablespoons sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon, coat pan with sugar mixture. Mix flour, soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon; set aside. Beat oil and sugar until blended. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then stir in apples and vanilla. Add flour mixture until blended; stir in pecans and raisins. Transfer batter to pan and then drop and shake the pan to release bubbles. Bake for 1½-1¾ hours until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on rack 15 minutes, remove from pan and glaze.