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Thursday, March 17, 2011

A . . . is for Apple

Contributed by Valerie Battle Kienzle

What a welcome sight! After a long, cold and especially snowy winter, the greens of spring are appearing. Day lilies, buttercups, crocus, sedum, tulips -- all have tiny green shoots emerging from our soggy yard. The two apple trees still look dormant, but according to the gardening tip in the weekend newspaper, now's the time to trim them.

We planted the tiny apple trees (Red Delicious) 25 years ago, thinking it would be fun to eat apples from our own trees. We knew nothing about fruit trees, but we planted and waited. And waited and waited.

One year a few spring blossoms grew into tiny green balls. By late September we were ready to harvest apples -- seven from one tree, five from the other. They weren't large, but they were sweet, juicy and like their name, delicious!

The trees and our children grew. One year our son harvested the apples from the tops of the trees by climbing a small step ladder. We harvested a bucketful of apples that year and made applesauce using an old southern recipe.

Some years we had no apples. Late-winter cold snaps were unkind to the fragile blossoms. Then one spring the trees were absolutely covered with fragrant blossoms. Gentle breezes brought down showers of blossoms, covering the ground beneath the trees.
By late summer the branches hung heavy and low, weighed down by too many apples to count. We laughed when our dog pulled apples off the bottom branches and ate them like dog treats. The kids ate apple slices every day that fall, and we made and froze many containers of apple sauce.

The following year we were advised to prune and thin out the branches before the growing season and to remove some of the blossoms. This will stimulate new growth and result in larger fruit, we were told.

So we followed the advice -- and had amazing results. Through the years we've provided apples for school parties, made apple sauce in elementary school classrooms, shared bags of apples with family members and the neighbors, and made all kinds of apple concoctions. Apple butter, apple bread, apple crisp, apple coffee cake, apple sauce muffins, apples and pork, baked apples, apple pie, apple juice (way more trouble that it was worth!), apple salads, and of course, plain sliced apples served with a slice of cheddar cheese or a dollop of caramel.

Apples are truly an amazing fruit. They have no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and contain a variety of nutrients. There are literally hundreds of apple varieties throughout the world.

My grandma had a small apple orchard on her farm. Once the apples were ripe, apple pie appeared regularly on her table. Family members loved it! Grandma was one of those cooks who seldom followed a written recipe. After decades of cooking for family, friends and farm hands, she just "knew" how much of each ingredient to use. If someone insisted she share a recipe, it usually had no precise ingredient measurements listed. Here's her recipe for apple pie:

Grandma's Apple Pie
Make a pie crust recipe that will make enough crust to line a deep pan and have some for the top, some extra.

Line the pie pan. Put on top of that a layer of sliced apples, some sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Lay a layer of narrow strips of pie crust on top of the apple.

Add more apples, sugar and spices on the narrow strips of crust. Again, add a layer of apples, sugar and spices. Also, add a few dots of butter.

Then add the top crust. Bake at 350 degrees (a moderate) oven until done.

Through the years I've tried and collected many recipes that use apples. Following is a family favorite that's good for breakfast or dessert. It's especially good served warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream:

Apple Coffee Cake
Cake Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Hellmann's mayo (yep, you read correctly)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups apples, peeled and chopped

Topping Ingredients:
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1 comment:

  1. This recipe sounds delicious despite the mayo. I've enjoyed this colorful blog as spring approaches. Things are still pretty gray and brown up in Michigan.