Archive for the ‘Apples and Cider’ Category

Blue-Ribbon Apple Pie

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

Tammy Hicks of Charlemont, Massachusetts, won first prize for this pie years ago at the Cummington Fair. I’m sure Tammy’s version of the pie looked a lot more polished than mine; as you can see from the photo above, my pastry was a little spotty.

My pie tasted good, however, and I’ll trade a spotty but delicious crust for one out of a box any day!

I found the recipe in a lovely family recipe book Tammy’s mother, Pat Lowell, helped put together, Mangia. The book pays tribute to Pat’s grandparents, who came to this country a century ago from an area of Switzerland where Italian was spoken. (It is now part of Italy.)

Mangia nicely blends family history and recipes. Pat and Tammy told me that they cherish the book particularly in this pandemic year, when they can’t have their usual large family reunion. The book connects them to the people they love.

Tammy says she likes to use Paula Red apples for this recipe. I used my favorite assortment of apples, those from various trees in my neighborhood.

Tammy’s Pie

Ingredients:

for the pastry:

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
5 to 7 tablespoons cold water in ice cubes

for the filling:

6 to 8 cups peeled, sliced apples
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon pie spice
1 dash cinnamon
1 dash nutmeg
2 teaspoons butter
milk or cream as needed

Instructions:

Begin by making the pastry. Sift together the flour and the salt. Cut in the shortening with a pastry knife or blender, 1/3 cup at a time. Add water, a tablespoon at a time, and mix until the dough begins to stick together.

Turn onto a floured board and form into a ball. Cut the dough in half, wrap the halves in plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

While the dough refrigerates, prepare the apples. Take half of the dough and roll out your bottom crust. (Leave the other half refrigerated until you are ready to use it.) Fit the crust into a 9-inch pie plate and fill it with the apples. Mix the sugar and flour with the spices, and pour them over the apples. Top with the butter.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the top crust, and adjust it over the apples. Crimp the edges, using a little water to seal the crust. Cut steam vents in the top crust and brush a little milk or cream on top.

Cover the crust with foil, and bake for about 50 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking to brown the crust lightly—or even a bit longer. Serves 6 to 8.

 

A Thanksgiving Salad

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

The older I get—and the more work I have to do on the days before and after Thanksgiving—the simpler I like to make Thanksgiving. My sister-in-law Leigh and I will experiment a bit over the weekend, once the holiday is over. She wants to play with pastry. I want to make some lovely potato buns my friend Sandy makes every year.

But on Thanksgiving itself we’ll have a simple meal and let the turkey shine. Turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potatoes, a green vegetable, perhaps a little mashed potato … and a salad.

I first encountered Brussels sprouts in a salad a few years back at the home of my cousins Alan and Jane. As I have written before here, I don’t care for boiled sprouts. They fill the house with an icky cabbage-y smell and take on a depressingly sodden texture.

When roasted or sautéed or used raw (as they are here), however, they smell fine, taste better, and have a satisfyingly crunchy texture. Lauren Zenzie on Mass Appeal scooped up what was left of the salad after we made it on the air for her lunch.

A note about vinegar: I go back and forth between cider vinegar and red-wine vinegar in this recipe. The cider version is more autumnal; the wine vinegar gives the salad dressing a bit more tang.

We also made my cranberry-apple crisp for dessert on the air. I’m having trouble uploading the videos, but you may watch them here if you wish: Brussels-Sprouts Salad and Cranberry-Apple Crisp.

Happy Thanksgiving! May all your sprouts be crunchy….

Brussels Sprouts Salad

Ingredients:

16 Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries (more if you like)
6 to 8 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
2 small apples (or 1 large apple), cored and sliced (optional but delicious)
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon raw honey
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)

Instructions:

Trim the Brussels sprouts; then slice them with a knife or shred them with a food processor or a mandoline.

Combine the sprouts, the celery, the onion bits, the cranberries, and the apple pieces. Mix the remaining ingredients into a dressing, and toss half of the resulting dressing onto the salad, adding more dressing if needed. Serves 8.

The photo is a bit fuzzy, but you should get the idea!

Cider and Autumn

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

I’m not much of a cider drinker in general. When cider comes fresh from a local orchard, however, I can’t resist it.

This weekend my area in western Massachusetts will once again celebrate Franklin County Cider Days. Hard cider is now very chic—but we loved it before it was chic; this festival has been going on for more than two decades.

This year’s offerings include an amateur-cider-making competition, a cider dinner (already sold out!), tastings, lectures, and cooking demonstrations. I’m not involved this year, but even without me the weekend will be full of fun and flavor.

So when I went on Mass Appeal this morning to celebrate Halloween I felt that I should make something cider related. I only spearheaded one segment myself; the cidery in my own town of Hawley, Headwater Cider, sent a representative to make some pretty snazzy cocktails with Headwater’s hard cider.

My segment was simpler but also tasty. I mulled some cider. To me, mulling cider and Halloween go together; when the door keeps opening to admit trick or treaters, it’s nice to have something warming on the stove.

Because mulling cider is such a snappy recipe, I also made some of my chock-full oatmeal cookies. They go beautifully with the cider—and they’re a great Halloween offering for any trick or treaters who can’t eat chocolate.

Happy Halloween! Happy Cider Season!

Mulled Cider

Ingredients:

1/2 gallon apple cider (use the best quality you can find, from a farm/orchard if possible)
4 cinnamon sticks
several cloves (whole)
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/4 cup brown sugar or maple syrup (optional, but useful if your cider is on the tart side; mine definitely didn’t need the additional sweetness)

Instructions:

Combine the ingredients in a heavy saucepan. If you want to avoid a mess, put the spices in a cheesecloth bag or infuser. Or just ladle around them at the end (my choice).

Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a VERY low setting and simmer, almost covered, for 20 to 30 minutes. Serves 8.

And now the videos:

Cider Cocktails from Headwater Cider

Tinky Makes Mulled Cider and Chock-Full Oatmeal Cookies

Warmth and Cider High on a Hill

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

High on a hill on Reynolds Road in Shelburne, Massachusetts, Wheel-View Farm enjoys a stunning view. The farm house and much of the land have been in Carolyn Wheeler’s family since 1896, although she and her husband John have added to their property over the years.

Originally a dairy farm, Wheel-View now sells mostly beef, fruit, maple products, and hard and sweet cider. When I visited last fall, the Wheelers were getting ready for Cider Days. Cider season is, of course, over—but we’re still enjoying (if that’s the word) cool weather so it FEELS like cider season.

I was fortunate enough to be able to watch John Wheeler press fresh cider—and to taste his product. The Wheelers have a small but efficient cider-pressing system they purchased from OESCO in Conway, Massachusetts. John explained that the press was discovered in Italy, where it is used to press grapes for wine.

The pressing has two stages. First, John feeds fresh, crisp apples into an electric grinder. When I visited he was using a blend of Golden Delicious, Macoun, and Liberty varieties.

Next, the ground apples are transferred to a round press with a “bladder” in the middle. The press is powered by water from a garden hose. The water fills and expands the bladder, pushing the apple pieces out to the edges of the press. Holes in the sides allow the cider to flow out in a waterfall.

When the cider has finished flowing, the dry leftover pulp becomes a treat for the Wheelers’ cattle. It is the only thing the cattle eat other than grass and hay from their own pasture.

Nothing is wasted—and the cider has a deep, rich flavor. It was without doubt the best cider I have ever had. It tasted just like apples. I love apples.

After the pressing, Carolyn Wheeler took me to her cider tasting room, which opened in 2016.

Designed by Carolyn in an old outbuilding, the large, wood-paneled room welcomes visitors who want to buy cider or beef, as well as those who want to try a glass of hard or sweet cider on the spot along with a snack.

The tasting room is also a museum of sorts. Carolyn has filled it with antiques and collectibles from the farm’s past, including many pieces of household and farm equipment. As a music lover, I enjoyed testing her player piano and listening to “The Happy Wanderer” on her family’s Victrola.

The bill of sale for the Victrola hangs on the wall behind the record player. “My family never threw anything out,” Carolyn said with a smile as she pointed to the receipt.

The Wheelers have welcomed a number of groups to the tasting room and the farm, from school (and college) students to the members of senior centers and granges in the area. Their visitors are encouraged to try to identify the uses of the pieces of farm equipment on display.

The Wheelers are retired educators. They view Wheel-View not just as a source of food but also as a source of information about farming practices in the past and present. As they look toward the future, Carolyn told me, they hope the farm can be maintained as some kind of educational center.

Meanwhile, the pair are making the most of their life as farmers. They have recently revived a traditional New England apple product John Wheeler’s grandmother used to enjoy, cider syrup (also known as boiled cider).

This is cider boiled down to concentrate the flavor. The pair sell it in three flavors: plain cider syrup, cider syrup mixed with maple, and cinnamon cider syrup.

Carolyn showed off the syrup’s versatility for me in a sweet-and-savory slow-cooker pot roast that also featured Wheel-View Farm’s beef. I made it on Mass Appeal this week, along with my grandmother’s chocolate cake. (My TV appearance coincided with what would have been her—gasp!—129th birthday.)

Wheel-View Farm’s cider tasting room is open most weekends, although would-be visitors are encouraged to call or check the farm’s website before venturing forth.

By the way, as I mention in the second video below, I’ll be teaching a free recipe-writing workshop on Sunday, May 6, as part of ArtWeek here in Massachusetts. This week celebrates arts of all sorts and features hundreds of events, many of which are free. If you’re in the neighborhood and are thinking of writing up a recipe or two (for publication, or even just for friends a family members), I hope you’ll come. Preregistration is required, but that’s not hard to do. Here are the details.

Wheel-View Farm Cider-Syrup Pot Roast

Ingredients:

3 to 4 pounds beef roast (I used chuck)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 dash nutmeg
pepper to taste (3/4 teaspoon to 2 teaspoons)
1/2 cup catsup
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup cider syrup or cider-maple syrup

Instructions:

Place the roast in a slow cooker. Combine the remaining ingredients and spread them on top of the beef. Cook for 6 to 8 hours on high. There is no need to add water; the roast makes its own gravy. You may also cook it on high for 1/2 hour and then let the beef cook overnight on low.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, place the beef in a covered pan and spread the sauce on top; then place it in a preheated 500-degree oven. After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 250 degrees and cook for several hours or overnight. (I haven’t tried this method, but I see no reason why it shouldn’t work!)

When the beef has finished cooking, remove it from the pot, cut it up if necessary (it mostly just falls apart), and return it to the sauce.

Serves 6 to 8.


And now the videos:


Tinky Makes Wheel-View Farm Cider-Syrup Pot Roast


Tinky Makes Her Grandmother’s Chocolate Cake

Even More Apples

Friday, October 20th, 2017

The weather outside is getting nippy in Massachusetts—but I’m keeping the house warm with food and laughter. It’s still apple month so I have stocked up on crisp, local apples and sweet cider.

I love the variety of apples available at my local orchards. Last week at Clarkdale Fruit Farms I sampled a new (to me) apple, the Esopus Spitzenburg. I first fell in love with the name—and then with the flavor.

This heirloom variety was one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apples, according to apple grower Ben Clark. Our third president did have good taste.

The Monticello website quotes A.J. Downing, whom it dubs “America’s foremost nineteenth century pomologist” (another great term) on this apple. Downing called the Esopus Spitzenburg “a handsome, truly delicious apple … unsurpassed as a dessert fruit” and considered it “the first of apples.”

I have a lot of apples in the house—but next time I go to Clarkdale I’m going to pick up a bag of Mr. Jefferson’s apples. I have a feeling they would be great for cooking as well as eating.

Meanwhile, on Mass Appeal this week I cooked with what I had in the house: cider and honey-crisp apples.

Franklin County’s annual Cider Days are on the horizon so I made a pot roast with sweet cider.

In cool weather my mind frequently turns to pot roast. I have written before about my go-to pot roast, but this version is also appealing, simultaneously sweet and savory.

After the pot roast, I looked ahead to my favorite holiday, Halloween, with caramel apples festooned with chocolate and other goodies. King Arthur Flour generously sent me both caramel and chocolate. I invited small neighbors over to pre-test the apple recipe below, and they were hugely enthusiastic. So were the youthful hosts on Mass Appeal.

The video below doesn’t show Danny New dumping nuts and sprinkles on our apples (he dumped after the cameras were turned off), but those embellishments are a fun part of any apple decoration.

My Facebook friend Nancy gently admonished me for giving the small neighbors chocolate and sprinkles rather than just nuts—but they made that decision themselves. The nuts, although delicious, are a more adult garnish. 

Whether you’re a sprinkle person or a nut person, do try these recipes. Happy apple month!

Cider Pot Roast

Feel free to add more liquid and spices if you like lots of juice in your pot roast—and maybe to add carrots after the first hour of cooking. Carrots are in season right now, and they complement the other flavors in this dish nicely.

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups cider
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 whole cloves
1 3-to-4-pound pot roast
flour as needed
canola oil as needed

Instructions:

Combine the cider, the sugar, the salt, the cinnamon, the ginger, and the cloves. Pour this marinade over the beef, and let it stand, covered, in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Turn and baste from time to time. Remove the roast from the marinade; sprinkle it with flour.

Heat the oil, and brown the meat in it in a pot or Dutch oven. Lower the heat, add the marinade, and cover tightly. Simmer for 3 hours. After the first hour, be sure to turn the roast every half hour or so, and to add more cider if the meat looks a bit dry. When ready to serve, thicken the gravy with flour if desired. Serve with noodles. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

 

Caramel Apples Plus

Ingredients:

3/4 pound caramel (or as much as you like) in block form
1/3 pound milk chocolate, cut up
1/3 pound white chocolate, cut up
4 medium apples
festive seasonal sprinkles, chopped nuts, or any other topping you like (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 200, and bring water to a boil in the bottom of a double boiler. Place the caramel in the top of the double boiler, and place the milk chocolate and white chocolate in oven-proof bowls.

If your caramel needs it (the package should tell you), add a little water to it. Melt the caramel in the double boiler over low heat, stirring occasionally. While it is melting put sticks in the cores of the apples.

When the caramel has melted, place the bowls of chocolate in the oven. Dip the apples in the caramel, gently swirling to cover them. Place the dipped apples on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Take the chocolates out of the oven, and stir to confirm that they have melted. (Melting them takes 10 to 15 minutes in the oven.) Use a spoon to drizzle the chocolate over the apples.

If you wish for extra bling, throw a few sprinkles or nuts on top of the apples before the chocolate hardens. Then wait for it to harden before digging in. (Waiting is the hard part!) Makes 4 delicious apples. These are best consumed cut into segments.

And now the videos:

Tinky Makes Cider Pot Roast on Mass Appeal

Tinky Makes Caramel Apples Plus on Mass Appeal