Ray Allen, of Allenholm Farm recounted some history for me about his grandfather’s customers at their South Hero orchard in the early 1900s. “Folks would show up with a horse and buggy and fill three barrels with apples,” Allen explained. “One was for cooking, one for drying, and one for storing in a root cellar – that way, they’d have apples all winter long,” he said. September’s a great time to do some cooking, both to eat right away and to preserve for the coming months. Here are a few easy recipes.
As I mentioned last month, I use the simplest applesauce recipe. I peel, core, and chop McIntosh apples. I put them into a saucepan, add just a touch of water so they don’t burn as they simmer, and let them slowly cook down until they’re soft. I like applesauce that isn’t too chunky, so I mash them a bit when they’re done. The applesauce can be frozen, and you could have it with your Thanksgiving dinner as a sweet reminder of warmer days.
Shelburne Orchards owner Nick Cowle’s recipe uses bacon (which I have now deemed the “new white meat” because it seems to be appearing in every dish). There are only three ingredients, as well as spices of your choosing: apples, bacon, and cheddar cheese. He suggests that you chop raw bacon into pieces and fry them so they cook evenly. Cowles then takes some Honey Crisp apples, cores them but leaves the peel on, and bakes them in a baking dish at 350 degrees for approximately 15 minutes until they are just barely soft. While waiting for the apples to bake, he grates a pile of cheddar cheese. When the baked apples are soft, Cowles takes them out of the oven and fills the middle with the mixture of cheddar cheese and cooked bacon. The apples then go back into the oven until the cheese melts. “It’s the perfect balance of salt and sweet,” Cowles explained. “And who doesn’t like another excuse to use more great Vermont cheese?” he quipped.
Local Pete Ruske’s recipe for caramelized apple slices is quick and delicious. Peel and core apples (Honey Crisp or Ginger Gold are Ruske’s favorites). Slice apples into 1/3-inch slices. Heat a pan to nearly-smoking point. Pour in some grape seed oil. Then, add some sugar to the hot oil and whisk to ensure complete melting of the sugar. Put apple slices into the pan, toss in the oil. Once apples are coated, let them cook until they start getting soft and golden. Remove from the pan and enjoy!
Another way to use apples can actually make the world a better place. “Pick for Your Neighbor” is an easy way for Vermonters to help fight hunger. During September and October, the Vermont Foodbank teams up with Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Vermont Tree Fruit Growers Association, and orchards around the state. Folks are encouraged to visit their participating orchards to pick and then purchase additional apples as a donation to the Foodbank. Last year, “Pick for Your Neighbor” made nearly 12,000 apples available to Vermonters in need. Shelburne Orchards is proud to participate every year. “Orchards hopefully see an economic benefit from increased sales; the Foodbank has access to fresh, local apples for distribution, and participants experience a great Vermont tradition while helping their neighbors in need,” explained Michelle Wallace, program director at the Vermont Foodbank. Last year, customers at Shelburne Orchards picked and donated almost 800 pounds, and Seventh Generation staff picked an additional 3,000 pounds! I’d like to set a goal for our customers of 900 pounds of donated apples this year. Lots of orchards around the state participate and you can find the list at http://www.vtfoodbank.org/OurPrograms/FreshFoodInitiatives/PickForYourNeighbor.aspx. Shelburne Orchards, Vermont Foodbank, and your neighbors will thank you.
Enjoy the autumn in Vermont! Smell the leaves as they crunch under your feet on a walk, taste freshly-picked, crisp apples, hear the geese heading south, and witness the leaves change their spectacular colors.