The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
One of autumn’s most anticipated pleasures — aside from football and the welcoming onslaught of cooler weather — lies in the first bite of fresh, crisp apples. Originating in Asia Minor, apples grew wild in Europe by prehistoric times. Myths in many cultures place apples right in the thick of the debate about man’s fall from Paradise. And people associated apples “with love, beauty, luck, health, comfort, pleasure, wisdom, temptation, sensuality, sexuality, virility and fertility.”
In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus recalls his fruit orchard and shares the memory with his aging father:
“12 pear trees bowing with their pendant load,
and ten, that red with blushing apples glow’d”. . .
and later tells about how King Tantalus was “tantalized” by the unreachable “fruit over his head: pears, pomegranates, sweet figs, apples and juicy olives.” Later, apples often served as currency in medieval markets. And played a vital role in Sir Isaac Newton’s discovery of gravity in 1665.
Early English settlers brought their favorite apple varieties with them to the New World. Apple pie really began as an English specialty, now gone native. Today, apples are “American as apple pie”, thanks to Johnny Appleseed’s efforts. Yes, Virginia, Johnny Appleseed really existed. John Chapman, as he was really called, sowed apple seeds from the Allegheny Mountains to the Ohio River. So prolific were these apple trees that the fruit began to figure prominently in American folk art and lore. For example, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is an old saying with a grain of good advice and an apple for the teacher might yet help a desperate student. “The apple of my eye” meant “sweetheart” or a favorite person.
Apples have always been America’s favorite fruit. The United States produces more apples than any other country. Over 7,000 varieties are known in the U.S., but growers only market about 50 varieties. Available year‑round, apples taste best from September through April. Apples keep well without withering when stored in a cool place, with the stem end turned down. Certain varieties cook up better for certain cooking purposes than others: Jonathans make for just plain eating, as do McIntosh and Red Delicious apples. Gravensteins can’t be beat for applesauce, while Granny Smiths take the prize as pie apples.
Apple pie may no longer be America’s favorite dessert only because Mom doesn’t have the time to make it anymore. “Spicy Apple Crisp” tastes like apple pie without the crust and anyone can whip it up, not just Mom. Pile on the vanilla ice cream or frozen vanilla yogurt for “pie” a la mode. Double the Apple Chutney recipe and make plenty of it for your own use. And then give the rest away as gifts. Serve the chutney (spicy but not hot) with roast pork, turkey, chicken, sausages, and ham. It’s not unlike a spiced cranberry sauce. Use the chutney in the traditional Indian way, too, by serving it with hot Indian curries.
An apple a day may not always keep the doctor away, as J. T. Stinson said at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904, but it’s still worth a try with today’s medical costs!
One medium apple contains 84 calories and provides some potassium.
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup oats
1/4 cup raisins
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 cup melted butter
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Pour the butter into a 9‑inch square baking pan. Arranged the sliced apples in the pan.
2. Mix the dry ingredients and sprinkle over the apples. Bake about 25‑30 minutes until the apples are tender and browned.
3. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or frozen vanilla yogurt.
Makes 1 1/2 cups
5 large tomatoes, quartered and puréed
1 large onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup vinegar + 1 T.
3/4 cup brown sugar + 1 T.
1 t. whole crushed mustard seed
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. coriander
3 whole cloves
1 t. salt
1 1/2 t. grated fresh ginger
1/2 c. raisins
4 large Granny Smith apples, cored and chopped
1. Put tomatoes and onion in a large pot; simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients except for the apples. Cook uncovered until a thick paste‑like mixture forms (time will vary).
2. Add the apples and cook uncovered for 30 more minutes. Put the chutney into clean jars, cover, and refrigerate. Chutney keeps well for 4‑6 weeks, if refrigerated. Serve with roast pork, chicken, turkey, sausage, and ham.
Old Southern Apples, by Creighton Lee Calhoun (1996)
American Pomology, by J. A. Warder (1867)
In Praise of Apples: a Harvest of History, Horticulture, and Recipes, by Mark Rosenstein (1996)
The Amazing Apple : A History of Apples, by E. D. Blundell (2008)
A Treatise on the Culture of the Apple & Pear and on the Manufacture of Cider and Perry, by T. A. Knight (1797)
© 2008 C. Bertelsen