By Chef Judi Gallagher –
September is here, and even though we don’t officially transition to autumn until the end of the month, I always think of Labor Day as the official start of fall. I can’t wait to move from light summer food to heartier autumn comfort food — and as I start running through my mental list of recipes I want to try, the stars this year are fruits.
Fall fruits are absolutely wonderful; they comprise a list that includes apples, grapes, pears and cranberries. I mean, who doesn’t love all-American apple pie (make mine with salted caramel, please), a handful of frozen grapes, vanilla-poached pears (served with a side of chocolate sauce, thank-you-very-much) or perfect cranberry sauce, served alongside Thanksgiving turkey.
Here are my tips for how to pick the best-quality fall fruits, as well as a killer recipe for salted caramel apple pie. Enjoy!
Apples: If you live nearby an apple orchard, get yourself to it immediately — there’s nothing more satisfying than picking apples and putting them to use in the kitchen. Look for firm, brightly colored apples that are clean and shiny; they can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.
Pears: Give your pears a few days to ripen at home after you purchase them (and try to purchase them from your local farmer’s market or farmstand, if possible). When they’re ready to eat, their flesh will give a little when you press them. Keep them in the refrigerator after they’ve ripened for up to 5 days.
Grapes: Ripe, white and green grapes will have a yellowish tone; red and purple should have not a single speck of green on them. Make sure you keep your grapes refrigerated or you’ll end up with raisins, and always wash them thoroughly before eating.
Cranberries: Because cranberries usually come pre-packaged, check the bag to make sure you get bright berries that are not soft or shriveled. Discard any stems before cooking.
What’s your favorite fall fruit? Happy eating!
Salted Caramel Apple Pie
Adapted from Four and Twenty Blackbirds
1 recipe for 2-crust butter pie crust
1 cup white sugar
¼ cup water
1 stick unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 ½ tsp sea salt
4 to 6 lemons
5 to 6 medium to large apples (such as a mix of Crispin, Granny Smith and Cortland)
1/3 cup raw sugar
2 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 egg, beaten
Raw sugar, for sprinkling
1 teaspoon sea salt
Special equipment: Mandolin, for slicing apples
Prepare one 2-crust batch of your favorite all-butter pie crust. Roll the bottom crust, form it to a 9-inch pan and cut the top crust as a lattice. Chill the rolled crust while you prepare the salted caramel and apple filling.
To make salted caramel:
Once the mixture has turned a copper color, remove from heat and add heavy cream — the mixture will bubble and steam. Whisk the final mixture together over low heat and sprinkle in the sea salt. Set aside to prepare apple filling.
To make apple filling:
Juice the lemons into a large mixing bowl. Core, peel and thinly slice the whole apples. Dredge all the apple slices in the freshly squeezed lemon juice to prevent browning. Set prepared apples aside. In a large measuring cup or small mixing bowl, combine sugar flour cinnamon, allspice nutmeg and Angostura bitters. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples in the mixing bowl using your hands to gently mix and coat the apple slices.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Gather rolled pie crust, salted caramel and apple mixture. Begin by layering 1/3 of the apples in the bottom of the crust so there are minimal gaps. Pour 1/3 of the caramel sauce over the apples. Add 1/3 of the apples and caramel for a second layer, and then add a third layer of apples and the caramel again. Save a small amount of caramel to pour on top after the lattice is assembled. Assemble the lattice crust and flute the edges of the crust. Pour the last bit of caramel on top. Brush the crust with the beaten egg and lightly sprinkle with raw sugar and sea salt.
Bake the pie on a baking sheet larger than the pie pan for 20 minutes, otherwise the caramel will bubble over. Reduce to the temperature to 325 and bake for 25-35 minutes. Test the apples with a toothpick or knife; they should be just soft. Let the pie cool, then slice and enjoy.