A New Season & Apples 3 Ways

Apple Jelly & Apple Crisp

Sunset from our balcony
When I was a kid, Mr Block, an apple farmer from Wenatchee, Washington, or somewhere near there, used to drive across the Cascade Mountains to deliver boxes and boxes full of apples to our house.  Our front porch would be lined with huge boxes full of fragrant apples:  Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Macintosh, Jonagold.  There may have been other varieties as well - I don't remember.  And I don't remember when or why the apple deliveries became an annual event.  Probably it was my Dad, who could and would talk with anybody, who befriended Mr. Block and came up with the idea to sell these gorgeous fall trees from our front porch to friends, neighbors, work mates.

Perfect Friday evening dessert + Americano!
My Dad got along really well with most everybody.  I remember him saying: "never underestimate anybody.  You'd be surprised how much the junk yard owner can teach you."  His ability to chat with and make friends with people from all over meant that for many summers in a row, our vacation destination was an out of the way cattle ranch outside of Conconnully, WA, where Salmon Creek ran through the property, and where my oldest brother had the job of riding shotgun in our big yellow Suburban so that he could open and close the seemingly endless cattle gates even if there was a bull standing there, eying him suspiciously as we, pulling a large trailer of camping gear, pulled on through, getting closer and closer to our camping spot near the edge of the creek.  We never caught any salmon there, but plenty of fresh rainbow trout, snagged on a hook at the end of our homemade (Dad-made) fishing rods, and fried up in the cast-iron frying pan over the Coleman stove by Mom.

What does all of this have to do with Apples?  Nothing, I suppose, except the memories triggered by smells and sounds and the way our mind works, and the fact that to get to Conconnully, we sometimes drove over Highway 2, through Leavenworth and then through Wenatchee, the Apple Capital of the world, where Mr. Block came from.  And as we drove, if it was daylight then, the rows and rows of apple trees passed by in a bit of a green blur.  Later, if we came in the late summer or fall, we could see the ripening apples on the branches, and the fruit stands would be full of them.  If it was July, there would be cherries, and peaches, and apricots...luscious fruits whose equal haven't tasted anywhere else I've been.  Maybe I'm biased.  Maybe I'm homesick.  Maybe it's just true that they are the best.

Relaxing on the beach near Kivinokka
But whatever it is, it's Fall again!  And apple time.  And now I am in a country, far from Wenatchee, but still there are apples everywhere.  A few weeks ago we walked out to Kivinokka, based the Herttoniemi garden cottages you can see from the balcony of our apartment, to have morning coffee and a donut at the Kivinokka kioski.  Looking for a place to sit, we were invited over to the picnic table by a middle-aged, friendly look Finnish man.  We began to chat, and learned that he owned one of the cottage gardens - he'd inherited it from his mother when she died a few years ago.  I asked him about all that gorgeous fruit I saw in those gardens, falling to the ground with no one eating it.  "Could I buy some," I asked, "Would someone sell the fruit to me if I came to pick it?"  "Ah, come on," he said.  "I'll be home in 15 minutes.  You come on by and pick my fruit - and you don't pay me anything!  Fifteen minutes.  And if you come by and I'm not there, pick it anyway and tell the neighbors Ari gave you permission!"

We picked a huge bucket of apples, 5 liters of red currents, 2 liters of plums and got a bag full of rhubarb from the cottage garden.  But the best part was sitting down with Ari and sharing stories with him - about his travels and ours; Finland before and after the war; and what a treasure this garden is!

A waved hello last week as I walked by Ari's cabin on my way to the woods, and of course, since it's apple time, Ari had apples.  I came away with a big bag - and a smile at how friends are made, what joy they bring, and how much you can learn from most anybody.

Here are three ways I enjoyed that bag of apples - and the best part is that the prep work is done all at once.  Bon Appetit!

Apple Prep:
Peel enough apples for 8 cups; core and slice the apples, saving the cores and peels in a medium size-pot and putting the apple slices into a bowl.

Apple Jelly
Apple cores and peels have a lot of natural pectin, and nowadays I make my own apple pectin to use instead of commercial pectin when I make jams and jellies.  By itself, Apple Jelly is a glorious thing.  The glorious, sparkling jars are a joy to look at, and the jelly is delicious over yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes, and toast.   Red apple peels make for a pretty pink jelly.

Sparkling jars of Apple Jelly
Place the cores and peels from the apples into a medium-sized pot and add enough cold water to just cover them.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium so the mixture is still bubbling, cover and allow to bubble for 20 minutes.  Strain the mixture through a colander, reserving the juice and discarding the solids.

Measure the apple juice back into the pot.  For every cup of juice, add:
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

In a separate bowl, measure out 3/4 sugar for each cup of sugar for each cup of juice.  Set aside.

Bring apple juice and lemon juice to a rolling boil.  Once the mixture is at a full boil, add the sugar all at once.  Lower the heat slightly to reduce the speed of the bowl, and continue to cook the mixture until the temperature reaches 220 F.  (If you don't have a thermometer, place a plate in the freezer before you start the process.   Test the to see if the jelly is gelled enough by placing a spoonful on the frozen plate.  If the jelly slumps across the plate and does not run, it is ready.)

Pour the jelly into into sterilized canning jars and cover with a lid.  FDA says you should then process it in a hot water bath for 5 minutes to sterilize.  I don't:  I tip the jars upside down for 5 minutes, turn them right side up, and then allow to cool.  I've never had a spoiled jar, but it's up to you.  Let the jars cool for 12 hours without disturbing to allow them to seal and the jelly to set.  Test the lid:  it should be a tight seal.  If the lid pops up and down, store in the refrigerator and use within one month.

Individual Apple Crisps
Position the oven rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat oven to 375 F/ 190 C.
butter on apples; topping follows

8 cups of apple slices
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg, ground
1 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons butter, divided into 6 parts
6 Tablespoons of cream or half & half (coffee cream)

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl except for butter and cream.  Reserve 3 cups of apples for the next recipe (Sourdough Pancakes with Apple Compote)

Divide the remaining 5 cups of apples between 6 ramekins.  Place one piece of butter on top of each the apple mixture in each ramekin.  Pour 1 Tablespoon of cream into each ramekin.

Fresh from the oven!

1 cup oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup pecans
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger

Combine all topping ingredients in a bowl until they are well mixed.  Divide the topping evenly over the top of the 6 ramekins.  Place ramekins in the oven and bake until golden brown, the mixture is bubbling and the apples can be pierced easily with a fork.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6.

Sourdough Pancakes with Apple Compote
If you don't have sourdough starter, you can make regular pancakes - whatever variety it is that you use.  If you do have sourdough starter - these pancakes are really exceptional.  The original pancake recipe was found on http://whatscookingamerica.net.

Apple Compote
Apple Compote
In a small pot, combine the 3 cups of apples reserved from the Individual Apple Crisp recipe, above, and 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and allow to bubble quietly as you cook the pancakes.

Sourdough Pancakes
Preheat oven at it's lowest setting and place a large, oven-proof dinner plate inside.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine:
2 cups sourdough starter
1 egg
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of salt

In a separate bowl, stir together and reserve:
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon of water.

Sourdough pancakes, apple compote, fresh plain yogurt
Heat a skillet or frying pan over medium high heat.  When hot, add the baking soda mixture to the sourdough mixture, stir well to thoroughly combine, and allow to bubble and foam for 1 -2 minutes.

Melt a small amount of butter in the frying pan or on griddle, and fry the pancakes in batches.  As the pancakes are done, place them on the warm plate in the warm oven while you finish the rest.

Serve the pancakes with the Apple Compote and if you wish, a dollop of fresh, plain yogurt.

Makes 15 three inch pancakes.

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