Orchard Memories

I was a lucky kid. I grew up surrounded by a loving family, lots of patient pets to dress up for tea parties, and an orchard filled with lots of apple trees. Spring saw that orchard filled with more pink blossoms than one would think possible and a fragrance that simply cannot be given its due with words. As the seasons progressed, tiny green bulbs would grow and begin to add hues of red to their skins. At first, all they were good for was throwing for the dogs in a good game of fetch. Then, as the weather turned cooler, we'd begin to take weekly -- and sometimes daily -- taste tests to determine when they were ready for eating. As the wind did its job of helping them find their way to the earth, we'd spend chilly evenings helping Mom peel, core and slice those that were good enough to find their ways into pies, cobblers and cakes. Others managed to make the transition to delightfully spiced applesauce. Of course, our favorites were those that we managed to pluck from the tree before the wind knocked them down and bruised them. Those were the perfect eating and storing apples. Of course, before our apples were ready for storing, we needed to wait for that first deep freeze of the fall season. I never knew why, but it seemed to take that first frost to make our apples ready for storing well into the winter months. Well, those days are long gone now and while I still make the traditional trek to the orchard when the chilly days of autumn beckon, there's always a little extra longing for those special days in the orchard as a child. And, as I harvest another bushel of the sweetest apples I know, I smile a little more and make sure I find a couple that are just too beautiful to pass up. After all, what's a trip to the orchard without taking a sample of the season?

In honor of those precious orchard memories, I'm sharing some of my favorite apple recipes. Enjoy them with your favorite varieties of apples.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you about your recipe ideas and comments. You can always post comments in the discussion board using the forms provided in the articles or email me.

Cinnamon Apple Dip

This quick apple dip is the perfect snack on a chilly evening. Make sure that you make enough to be able to make some Oven "Fried" Apples!
  • 4 T. cornstarch
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 c. apple cider
  • 6 T. maple syrup
  • 4 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • Dash ground cloves
  • Dash ground allspice
  • 2 T. butter
  • 8 apples, cored and sliced

Combine the cornstarch and brown sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir in the apple cider, maple syrup, lemon juice, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir an additional 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the butter; stir until melted and blended into the dip. Serve warm with the sliced apples.

  • Yields: 10-12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Oven ‘Fried’ Apples

Oven "Fried" Apples
Anyone who loves traditional fried apples will love this easy rendition that lowers fat and simplifies the process by baking them in the oven. Great on their own or as a topping over waffles, ice cream or pork chops.
  • 4 apples, cored and sliced (I like to use Macintosh apples)
  • 1/2 recipe Cinnamon Apple Dip (see above)

In a medium casserole, combine the apples and Cinnamon Apple Dip. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until the apples are tender and the sauce is bubbly.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Apple & Bacon Spinach Salad

Use a very sweet, crisp apple in this salad. I like using a fresh gala apple sprinkled with a little lemon juice to keep it from turning brown.
  • 1/4 c. apple cider
  • 3 T. cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. rosemary leaves, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 5 c. fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 1 apple, cored and peeled
  • 3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (you can use turkey bacon if you'd like)
  • 2 oz. crumbled feta cheese

Combine the apple cider, cider vinegar, rosemary leaves and salt in a small screw-top jar. Shake vigorously to blend.

Arrange the spinach leaves, apple slices, crumbled bacon and feta cheese on two plates. If you won't be serving the salads immediately, sprinkle the apple slices with lemon juice before adding to the salad. Pour the dressing over the salads and serve.

  • Yields: 2 main dish salads
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Apple-Braised Beef Brisket

By browning the brisket thoroughly before adding the apple cider, you introduce a delightful carmelization that pairs beautifully with the season's best apple cider. Serve with a nutty wild and brown rice blend and your favorite vegetable.
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 lb. flat-cut beef brisket, trimmed of visible fat
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. crushed rosemary leaves
  • 2 c. apple cider

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the brisket and cook until well-browned on all sides. Sprinkle all sides with the seasonings and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Remove the brisket to a roasting pan with a rack.

Add the apple cider to the skillet and cook and stir to heat and remove any bits of meat from the pan. Pour the cider over the brisket in the roasting pan. Roast the brisket for about an hour or until desired doneness is achieved. Serve with the pan drippings spooned over the sliced beef.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 1/2 hours

Pork Chops Over Apple Stuffing

The apple stuffing in this recipe takes on a new texture with the addition of oatmeal. The result is a cake-like mixture bursting with apple flavor.
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 c. coarse bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 c. oatmeal
  • 1 c. dried cranberries
  • 6-8 T. mustard, divided (I used a tangy raspberry honey mustard)
  • 1 apple -- peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 1 pkg. dry garlic-herb soup mix
  • 1 1/2 - 2 c. apple juice
  • 3-4 pork loin chops
  • 1 apple, cored and sliced into rings

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 X 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs, oatmeal, dried cranberries, 3 tablespoons mustard, chopped apple and soup mix. Add enough apple juice to make the stuffing moist.

Spoon the stuffing into the prepared pan. Place the pork chops over the stuffing. Brush each chop with about 1 tablespoon of mustard. Arrange the apple rings over the chops and stuffing.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the chops are cooked. Uncover the pan and bake an additional 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

Puffy Apple Squares

This lovely dessert puffs up while it bakes and takes on a light creamy texture that will delight crowds of all ages. Serve it on its own or warmed slightly with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream.
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3 1/2 c. sugar, divided
  • 6 c. chopped apples
  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 12 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 30 degrees. Spray a glass 9 X 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

Combine the cinnamon and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Add 4 tablespoons of the cinnamon mixture to the apples. Toss to evenly coat the apples. Set aside. Reserve the remaining cinnamon mixture as a topping for the squares.

Beat the butter, vanilla, cream cheese and remaining 3 cups of sugar with an electric blender until well mixed. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing the batter after each addition. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat until well blended.

Stir the apple mixture into the batter and mix to blend. Pour the batter into the prepared glass baking pan. Sprinkle evenly with the reserved cinnamon mixture.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the squares pull away from the sides of the glass baking dish. Cool the squares completely before cutting and serving.

  • Yields: 24 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes