Autumn Appeal

Taking advantage of Michigan’s huge apple harvest with a bushel basket full of recipes
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It’s a yearly ritual. Plucking at least a bushel of crisp apples and storing them in my cool garage all fall. On the way to my car, I always take two. Or three. I gobble them to the core and feel truly happy. Last year my overstuffed bushel bag of Honey Crisp weighed in at nearly 50 pounds. I felt like a lottery winner.

Cider mills are throwing open their barn doors and queues snake with anxious, can-hardly-wait customers anticipating gulps of cool, clear Michigan cider.

With all them apples, it’s hard to believe we’re not the nation’s top grower. We rank third, with about a billion (that’s right, billion) pounds of apples expected to be harvested this coming season.

Last year’s bumper crop produced more than 30 million bushels, double the year before, according to the Michigan Apple Committee. But despite late spring’s crazy cold spell and an overall soggy year, the weather didn’t seem to hurt the 2014 forecast. Only New York and Washington state produce more than the Mitten. This doesn’t even account for those snatched from trees many of us have in our yards, leftovers from orchards turned into subdivisions throughout the last century.

Way more than half of all Michigan apples are turned into commercial foods, pastries, snacks, and condiments, including apple ketchup and chutney, as well as stuffed meats and desserts of every apple ilk. Plus, there’s a growing market for hard ciders (see “Pressing Business”).

The most popular varieties? Honey Crisp is the “it” apple. Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Fuji, and Gala are next. In all, about 20 varieties of apples are grown in Michigan on a commercial basis.

If you’re picking your own, know that not all apples are “ready” at the same time. Orchards can tell you when it’s time to pick your favorite variety. There are several sites to help you find where to pick: pickyourown.org/MI.htm, michiganapples.com, or upickmichigan.com have links to growers in your area.

So what can you do with all the apples when you have gobbled all you can and imbibed gallons of cider? Click through the next few pages for just a few recipes.

 

Spinach Salad with Sautéed Apples, Toasted Corn, and Almonds

(Serves 8)

  • 4 apples, peeled or unpeeled, quartered, seeds removed and cut into thin wedges
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided), plus ¼ cup olive oil (for vinaigrette)
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt or kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ pounds baby spinach
  • ½ cup thinly sliced red or
  • Bermuda onions
  • 1 cup lightly toasted sliced
  • almonds

Directions:

Toss apples with oil and transfer to a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté until softened, about
6 minutes. Set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Toss the corn with olive oil in small bowl. Spread the corn on the baking sheet and bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until the corn is golden and beginning to char. Remove from oven and set aside. Make vinaigrette with oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk well. Toss the spinach, onions, almonds, and corn in a large bowl with the vinaigrette. Arrange spinach on a platter or 8 dinner-sized plates and arrange the apples on top.

 

Seared Chicken with Apples and Wine

(Serves 6-8)

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 6-8 small boneless
    skinless chicken breast halves 
    (about 2 ½ pounds)
  • 2 cups apple cider or juice
  • 1 cup white wine, any kind
  • 3 cups diced chopped apples
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat until very hot. Place the chicken breasts in the skillet and cook until the undersides are very golden, about 3 minutes. You may have to do this in batches. Turn the breasts over and cook for 1 minute more. Add the cider or juice, wine, apples, garlic, capers, and parsley and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 6-8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve the chicken with the sauce and apples spooned over.

 

Easy as Pie Free-Form Apple Tart

(Serves 8)

  • 8 cups 1-inch chunks, peeled Granny Smith apples
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 premade, uncooked pie crust, thawed and unfolded
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
  • ¼ cup apricot preserves, melted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper. Toss apples with sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Arrange over the pastry, leaving a 2-inch border around the apples. Drizzle the melted butter over the apples. Fold pastry up over the perimeter of the apples (don’t worry if the edges aren’t neat). Bake for 30 minutes. Brush the apricot preserves over the apples and continue baking another 15 minutes, until the crust is very golden and the apples are tender. Allow to cool and serve cut into wedges.

 

Apple Chutney

(A perfect grilled meat or sandwich topper)

  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 4 cups, ½-inch diced, peeled apples
  • 1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Allow to cool completely before transferring the mixture to a glass or plastic container to chill. Keeps for 1 month chilled. Makes about a quart of chutney.

 

Skillet Baked Glazed Apple Pancake

(Serves 2-4)

Pancake:

  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Apples:

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, or more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, or more to taste
  • 2-3 medium apples, any variety, peeled or unpeeled, 
  • cut into thin wedges

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Combine pancake ingredients in a large bowl and whisk well. Set aside. Melt butter in a large (12-inch) oven-proof skillet over medium-heat. Add remaining ingredients and cook, using a heat-proof spatula to sauté until the liquid is bubbly and the apples are tender. Pour the batter over the apples. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes. Slide pancake onto serving platter or turn the pancake over onto a platter (so that the apples are on top).  Eat immediately or the pancake will deflate significantly. Cut into wedges and serve. 

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