It's fall. The trees are beginning to release their leaves, squirrels hurry to gather winter provisions and the wind brings a hint of chill from the north. And in many orchards, neatly pruned limbs hang heavy with apples waiting to be plucked by eager hands.
Apple picking has been a tradition in our family since our children were tots. I remember lugging strollers and baby carriers out to the orchard, trying to avoid the squished apples with hovering bees underfoot. And while it was an effort to traipse through an orchard with three children under 4-years-old, the delight on the faces of the older ones as they plucked their first apple was worth it.
Now, there are four kids to bring, and they are older, requiring less equipment. But the wonder remains. There may be complaining on the way, but those gripes are replaced with mouthsful of crisp apples and fingers sticky with sugary cider doughnuts.
If you get caught up in the pastoral moments of picking as we did, you may find yourself in your kitchen staring in dismay at a 20-pound bag of apples. After a moment of panic, I realized that between the six of us, we certainly could consume this bounty if I got creative.
You can't go wrong with butter, sugar and flour, so out they came and the little foodies and I made Ina Garten's Apple Crostata. We used lemon zest instead of orange, and because I do not have a food processor, we put the pastry together using a pastry blender (or use two knives).
This dessert is deliciously rustic and delicately sweet, which allows the fruit to shine. The topping bakes into the apples and forms a crunchy crust that only enhances the tart sweetness of the fruit.
Realizing that this recipe barely put a dent in our mountain of apples, I planned a fruit-enhanced entree and dessert for the next night. I often serve applesauce with pork tenderloin, so I looked for other ideas using pork and found a keeper.
Pork Tenderloin with Apples implied a simple recipe, but when I scanned the ingredients, the cream, shallots and Cognac instantly hooked me. The meat is seared for color, then roasted briefly and set aside. The magic happens in that same pan, with cider and Cognac deglazing the roasting pan and blending perfectly with the sauteed shallots and thyme. The resulting sauce was decadent when spooned over the subtle tenderloin and sweet caramelized apples.
While we were eating dinner, I popped the prepped Baked Apples into the oven. This classic dessert was popular in my house growing up. The cored apples (try using a grapefruit spoon) are filled with cinnamon sugar and topped with a dollop of butter, all of which perfume the kitchen with the essence of fall. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt to finish the dish.
And the last treat we made was a kid favorite: caramel apples. We bought the kit with the tub of caramel that is heated in the microwave. The kids enjoyed dipping the apples. And although waiting for the caramel to set is torture, it was worth the anguish.
Other ideas for those sacks of apples:
- Apple-Butternut Squash Soup
- Whole Wheat Apple Muffins
- Spiced Slow Cooker Applesauce
- Scrumptious Apple Pie
- German Apple Pancakes