Archive for the ‘Apples and Cider’ Category

Drink, Eat, and Be Very Merry Indeed

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

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I am one of the lucky food writers who have been invited to what is called the Abrams Dinner Party. Abrams Publishing (long known for art books and more recently for colorful cookbooks) will be sending us books to review throughout the year.

I’m already behind on posting reviews (I’m behind on EVERYTHING during this nutty season of the year) so I’m giving you three at once.

Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History by Steven Grasse is charming—so much so that although I THOUGHT I was going to set it aside as a prize for my upcoming Hawley Gentlemen’s Pie & Tart Extravaganza, I have decided that it needs to stay in my house so I can use it.

(In addition to enjoying the text I loved the old-fashioned typeface and the whimsical illustrations by the Reverend Michael Alan.)

Grasse is a distiller himself and the creator of such successful historically oriented brands as Narragansett Beer and Hendrick’s Gin. In his book he returns to colonial days, reminding the reader that since the water was unsafe to drink early white Americans turned to ale and other spirits to quench their thirst.

He provides recipes and history for a variety of concoctions, including a variety of beers and wines (cock ale or quince wine, anyone?), ciders, and cocktails. I can now make beverages I had only previously encountered in historical novels, including syllabub, ratafia, and milk punch. (Okay, I may skip the milk punch.)

Look for me to concoct such drinks as cranberry shrub and peach cobbler (yes, it’s a cocktail as well as a dessert) on TV in the months to come.

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In The 24-Hour Wine Expert Jancis Robinson offers a primer for people like me, who either don’t drink wine or don’t know much about it. She helps with selecting wines (telling the reader how to move from one wine s/he likes to another s/he will PROBABLY like), serving them, and storing them.

I have apparently stored much of the wine in my house a little too long.

She also runs through the products of major wine-producing areas and tells the reader how to find a bargain. All in all, this is a handy little book.

Butter & Scotch shares recipes from a combination bar and bakery in Brooklyn of the same name. The bar’s founders, Allison Kave and Keavy Landreth, share their “baking and boozing philosophy,” which is all about having fun while eating and drinking very well. Some of their recipes even combine butter and scotch with delicious-sounding results. All of their recipes are imaginative.

I wanted to test at least one recipe from this book. I was tempted to try the very rich peanut-butter pie but decided to give my guests the slightly less caloric Mama T’s Tuna Quiche.

Basically a rearranged tuna melt in a pie shell (I didn’t say it was calorie free!), the quiche was very popular with a group from my small hometown at a recent pot luck. I think another time I would grate the cheese instead of cubing it, to make it flow through the pie, but I’ll definitely try it again!

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Mama T’s Tuna Quiche

from Butter & Scotch, used with permission

Ingredients:

1 single pie crust
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons flour
6 ounces Swiss cheese, cubed
1 (5-ounce) can tuna packed in water, drained
1/3 cup sliced Kalamata olives
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Fit the crust into a pie pan. (The original recipe uses an 8-inch springform pan, which would be great, but I don’t have one so I used a 9-inch pie pan.) Refrigerate until ready to fill.

In a large bowl beat together the mayonnaise, milk, eggs, and flour. Add the cheese, tuna, olives, scallions, mustard, and cayenne, and stir well. Pour all of the ingredients into the crust, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the center has set. (The original recipe says 20 to 25 minutes, and if one has the springform that may work, but in my pie pan it took longer.)

Allow the quiche to cool for at least 20 minutes, then serve it warm or at room temperature. Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 week and warmed in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Serves 6 (more at a pot-luck event!).

 tuna-quicheweb

Frittering My Life Away

Thursday, September 15th, 2016
Fritters make me happy.

Fritters make me happy.

I know, I know. This is my second post in a row about fritters.

I actually only make fritters every couple of years as a rule. Lately, however, I seem to be on a fritter kick.

Please believe me when I say this trend will end soon, for the sake of my waistline if for no other reason.

I will be making apple fritters in public very soon again, however. Apex Orchards in Shelburne, Massachusetts, is having a grand re-opening this weekend (September 17-18). I’ll be part of the celebration, making a couple of recipes from my Pudding Hollow Cookbook.

I have shopped at Apex for years, both for fruit and for the wonderful cider vinegar I buy there by the gallon. Tim Smith’s family has farmed this land for seven generations.

Tim and company have just opened a gorgeous new farm store with a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains. The gala weekend will feature hot-air balloon launchings, lots of yummy food (including my beloved Bart’s Ice Cream), and of course yours truly. I will be on hand on Sunday from 12 to 2 p.m. dishing up fritters as well as a green salad with apples.

The New Store (Courtesy of Apex Orchards)

The New Store (Courtesy of Apex Orchards)

If you can’t come, do try making the fritters. I prepared them on Mass Appeal yesterday, along with my favorite corn and tomato soup. I hope you watch! Meanwhile, I’m working on making something besides fritters for my next post!

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Apple Fritters

Ingredients:

1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon (you can’t really have too much)
1/2 cup flour
canola oil for frying
1 cup apple chunks (bite-sized pieces)

Instructions:

First, prepare the batter. Beat the egg until it is light. Add the sugar, milk, oil, and lemon juice, and mix well. Mix in the baking powder, salt, and cinnnamon; then gently stir in the flour. The batter should be fairly smooth. (A few lumps will disappear in cooking.) Let the batter sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

When you are ready to fry your fritters, pour 2 inches of oil into a fryer or heavy skillet and heat it to between 350 and 370 degrees. Stab each piece of apple with a fork, and dip it into the batter. Allow it to drip a bit, but don’t shake off the batter. Carefully lower the coated fruit into the fat, and cook until the first side is brown; then turn and cook the other side. (Turning can be a little tricky, but luckily sometimes you don’t need to!) You may cook 5 or 6 pieces at once.

Remove the fritters with a slotted spoon, and keep them warm in a 250-degree oven until all are ready. Serve alone, or covered with powdered sugar or warm maple syrup. Serves 4.

 

Courtesy of Apex Orchards

Courtesy of Apex Orchards

And now the videos….

Apple Brownies

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

brownies yum

These fruit-filled bars are a work in progress for me. I’m still having trouble getting them out of the pan! The recipe is worth sharing anyway, however, because they are so very satisfying to eat. And they will make your kitchen smell divine when they are in the oven.

The recipe comes from Lois Brown of South Deerfield, Massachusetts, a friend of my own dear friend Pam Gerry. I have also tried a version of these brownies in which one grates the apples instead of slicing them, but I like the consistency better this way.

You can see me make the bars in the video below. Happy apple season, all!

The Brownies

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) melted sweet butter
6 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices (about 4 cups of slices)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs. beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups flour

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch pan.

Stir together the melted butter and the sugar, followed by the apples. Mix in the eggs, stirring well to incorporate; then add the baking soda, the baking powder, the salt, and the cinnamon. Stir in the flour, and pour the apple-y batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out clean (watch out for apples; if you put the toothpick in a hot apple it will always come out wet!), about 45 minutes. Don’t cook them for more than 50 minutes in any case. Makes about 24 brownies, depending on how big you cut them.

(You may also cut this recipe in half and bake the brownies in an 8-by-8-inch pan. In that case the cooking time may go down to 35 to 45 minutes.)

Here’s the video:

Apples Everywhere!

Monday, September 28th, 2015

apple treeweb

My neighborhood is awash in apples. No one can recall having seen an apple season like this one. (Last year we had practically NO apples!) Even my own old, pathetic apple trees have produced copious amounts of fruit.

The apples ripened early, and I have to admit that it took me a while to get around to doing anything with them. I like to eat (and cook with) apples when the weather gets cool—and so far it has remained remarkably warm.

A couple of weeks ago, however, I decided that if I didn’t use some of the fruit soon the birds and squirrels would get it all.

Of course, I have made applesauce, a staple of my fall kitchen. For my most recent television appearance on Mass Appeal I prepared a couple of additional recipes I have been longing to test.

The first was a coleslaw from my friend Chef Michael Collins. Michael is cooking up a storm at his new restaurant, a tiny, colorful place in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, called Ponte because of its proximity to the lovely Bridge of Flowers.

Michael couldn’t come with me to the TV station that day, but he gave me permission to use his recipe, which perfectly blended sweet and tart. Here I share both that recipe and my cooking video.

Enjoy apple season—and please comment below if you have found a fun new way to cook with apples. We still have a LOT of them in my neighborhood.

Michael Collins (left) with his partner Tony Palumbo at Ponte

Michael Collins (left) with his partner Tony Palumbo at Ponte

Michael’s Apple Slaw

Ingredients:

4 cups shredded cabbage (try for a fairly rough cut)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 large apple, unpeeled (any red apple), diced into chunks (if you really love apples, put in 2 of them!)
1/2 cup chopped or halved pecans (or peanuts or walnuts—whatever you have in the house), plain, toasted, or roasted
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup mayonnaise or light mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey (I like the honey)
1 tablespoon apple-cider vinegar
1 tablespoon milk (optional; I didn’t need it)

Instructions:

A couple of hours before you want to assemble the coleslaw, place the cabbage in a colander. Toss in a tablespoon of kosher salt, and leave the mixture to drain for at least an hour, maybe 2.

Soak the cabbage in cold water to remove the salt, and drain it thoroughly.

Toss together the cabbage, the apple pieces, the nuts, and the raisins or dried cranberries.

In a bowl combine the other ingredients. Pour the resulting dressing over the cabbage/apple mixture and mix thoroughly.

Refrigerate for 1/2 hour before eating. Eat within a day to keep the apple pieces crisp. Michael likes to serve this salad on a cabbage leaf.

Serves 6.

A Pressing Engagement

Monday, October 14th, 2013

applesontreeweb

Apples and cider seem to sum up autumn in New England. Bursting with color and flavor, they are doubly precious because they represent the end of the harvest. Winter is coming, and we all know it, but in the meantime we savor the season and its fruit as much as we can.

Last year an ill-time frost made apples scarce here in Massachusetts. This year nature is making up for last year’s dearth with more apples than I can remember seeing in any single fall. An odd tree in my front yard that has never before produced ANYTHING suddenly droops with yellow-pink orbs.

Knowing that I love to make applesauce from a variety of apples, several of my neighbors have invited me to gather fruit from their trees as well as my own. I know that one tree down the road has Gravensteins. Another offers an abundance of Golden Delicious apples. The other trees are mysteries to me. Their fruits vary in color from yellow to such a deep red that the flesh as well as the skin of the apple is imbued with pigment. I don’t care what they’re all called. I just know that I love them!

On Saturday, the actual Columbus Day, the Coopers over on Strawberry Hill here in Hawley hosted their annual cider party. Paul Cooper hauled out his antique cider press, we all brought apples and jugs, and everyone who wanted to went home with fresh-pressed cider. (We also had an opportunity to catch up with neighbors and eat delicious food, but the cider was the main event!)

It can take several people (including advisers!) to press cider. Our host Paul Cooper is in the front right.

It can take several people (including advisers!) to press cider. Our host Paul Cooper is on the right in front.

This cider is amazingly aromatic, with a deep, rich color that seems even darker than the pretty terrific cider I frequently purchase at local orchards. I am unable to tell you how my own jug of cider tastes; I popped it into the freezer in anticipation of a visit from my brother and his family next weekend. (I’m SUCH a good sister and aunt!)

dark sweet ciderweb

I can’t really give you a recipe for cider, which just involves pressing apples until they release their lovely juice. (The press looks like a medieval instrument of torture, but it works!) So I’m sharing the recipe for the cookies I brought to Leslie and Paul Cooper’s party, snickerdoodles. Their cinnamony goodness is an ideal accompaniment to fresh-pressed cider.

The recipe came originally from Maureen Schaden-Foster, whose family runs the End of the Commons General Store in Mesopotamia, Ohio. Amish families drive up to the store in buggies to buy nourishing basics, and the store also delivers to several hundred Amish families nearby.

It’s one of the very few cookie recipes I make that call for vegetable shortening instead of butter. You’re welcome to try making it with butter, but I have to warn you that only shortening gives you the dreamy, melt-in-your-mouth consistency a snickerdoodle should have.

Speaking of that consistency, please note that you should really eat these cookies within 24 hours. After that they get a little stale and lose some of their appeal.

So haul out the cider and invite friends over to enjoy this bittersweet season with you.

Snickerdoodlesweb

Amish Snickerdoodles

Ingredients:

2-3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening, softened
1-1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Instructions:

Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Cream the shortening, and cream in the 1-1/2 cups sugar. Add the eggs and beat well. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the shortening mixture. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours. (It will have pastry-like consistency; pat it together a bit before chilling.)

When the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon in a small, shallow dish or bowl. Shape the dough into balls the size of walnuts, and roll each ball in the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 8 to 10 minutes. The cookies should be lightly browned but still soft.

Yield: About 4 dozen snickerdoodles.

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