Monday, September 27, 2010

Apple Picking

Autumn is the most wonderful time of year in the northeast. It's still warm, but not too humid; the leaves have just started to change. It is also, the perfect time to go apple picking. So off a group of urbanites went to the New York countryside, Warwick Valley, to be precise, to eat delicious food, drink delicious cider and, of course, pick too many apples.

I'd been to Warwick once before, on my infamous deer meat procuring adventure, and their bakery which churns out pizzas, sandwiches and salads is truly top notch. Little did I know that it would be such a scene, though: live music, every family within 10 miles picnicking and carousing. It was a veritable fall fest.

Our group's favorite fruits of the day were Jonagolds, the rightfully well-known cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious, and the less lovely, but perfectly crunchy and tart, Golden Russets. Both good to eat and use in baking, though the skin of the Golden Russet is a little potato-y.

A great way to preserve your apples if, like me, you brought back far too many bushels to your tiny apartment, is making my favorite cranberry applesauce and freezing it in batches.

Chunky Spiced Applesauce
Adapted from Cooking Light

10 cups cubed peeled apples (about 3 lbs)
1/2 lemon
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water or apple cider
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of grated nutmeg
optional pinch of ginger or allspice, or cloves

1. Placed apple in a large bowl; cover with cold water. Squeeze juice from lemon half into bowl; lace lemon half in bowl. Set aside.

2. Combine cranberries and remaining ingredients in a Dutch over; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook 3 minutes or until cranberries pop.

3. Drain apple; discard lemon. Add apple to pan. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until apple is soft. Uncover, bring to a boil, and cook 15 minutes. Mash apple mixture with a potato masher. Pour into serving dish; cover and chill at least 2 hours. Once completely cool, sauce freezes well.

Btw, I'd recommend picking up/borrowing from your local library a copy of Michael Pollan's "The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World" The first chapter lays out the story of the apple in America: how and why it became ubiquitous and associated with health rather than intoxication. Quick and interesting read.