By Chef Judi Gallagher –
I recently roamed the aisles of Green Market in NYC, crunching on the first of the season’s crisp apples. Yes, it was an 80 degree day, but the emotional pull of autumn and apples is as strong as a delicious gingered apple bread pudding. Apple dishes taste like comfort and crispness all rolled into wonderful recipes that grandmothers share with their grandchildren. When we lived in New England, apple season meant hay rides, pumpkin carving and generous bowls of apple crisp and cider donuts.
Every family has favorite apple recipes for hot dishes and cold. When you’re serving apple slices raw as part of a cheese presentation or as a salad component, you can keep the slices or chunks from turning brown. Squeeze two or three drops of fresh lemon juice into a zip-lock plastic bag. Add the apple and shake gently for a minute. Take out the apples and arrange on your serving plate. That just-sliced apple color will remain tempting.
October is high season for a wide variety of apples. You know, there are 7,500 varieties of apples grown worldwide. The United States grows about 2,500 kinds but only 100 commercially. The Delicious apple is the most widely grown variety grown in the US. In America, 36 states grow apples but Washington, New York, Michigan, California and Virginia produce the most.
No matter where you live in this apple-loving nation, there’s no time like right now to savor eating and cooking apples from your local farmers market, roadside orchard stand, organic market or supermarket. Here are some of my favorite types of apples.
Jonathan is a crisp, juicy, tart and a great all-purpose apple. Best for cider, pies, and crisps. For snacking, the Jonathan apple delivers a hearty crunchy bite.
McIntosh is my personal favorite apple, very sweet in flavor and perfect for applesauce.
Granny Smith has a wonderful green color and crisp texture. These apples hold their shape and texture in pies, strudels and they make superior baked apples.
Golden Delicious is a sweet, mild apple with a hint of spice that’s work best for preserving. And, it’s a nice eating apple.
Red Delicious is the milder apple. Sweet and crunchy and perfect when sliced in a salad or served on a cheese plate. And it looks pretty.
Apples are high in fiber and contain antioxidants that fight inflammation and help to lower bad cholesterol while raising the good kind. Also, there’s lots of vitamin C and vitamin K in apples. Maybe you can keep the doctor away with an apple a day! Here’s a nice dessert for a cool evening. The aroma of these apples cooking will fill your kitchen with the warm scents of autumn.
Baked Ginger Apples
1/4 cup brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
6 Granny Smith apples (make sure they are the same size)
½ cup oatmeal (not instant)
¼ cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger- smashed
3 tablespoons butter, cut into 6 teaspoon-size pieces
1 cup apple cider
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine cinnamon, oatmeal, chopped pecans, crystallized ginger and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside. Core apples. Make sure not to puncture the bottom of the apples so that the juices will remain. Remove skin from 1/2-inch around top of apples at the opening. Fill each cavity with the cinnamon-sugar and oatmeal mixture. Top each apple with a teaspoon of butter. Place apples in casserole dish and pour apple cider around them. Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake for approximately 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5-10 more minutes. Remove from heat, place in individual serving bowls and top with the heavy cream and dried cranberries. Serve immediately.
Baked Pork Chops with Apples and Sweet Potatoes
4 pork chops
1-2 teaspoons Chinese 5-spice
Salt and pepper to taste
2 sweet onions, sliced into rings
2 sweet potatoes, sliced
2 McIntosh apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into rings
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season pork chops with salt and pepper to taste and Chinese 5-spice and arrange in a medium oven-safe skillet. Top pork chops with onions, sweet potatoes and apples. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Cover and bake 1 hour in the preheated oven until sweet potatoes are tender and pork chops have reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees.