Stepping Out

Tastes of fall

Venture forth to a nearby apple orchard

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Those short-lived delights of the season are here to enjoy: juicy, crisp apples, sweet cider, harvest fairs, and, of course, some pumpkins along the way. Apple picking awaits and is underway at nearby u-pick orchards.

Apple season peaks around now, but there’s still time to pick through mid October, according to area growers.

Growers are producing more of the varieties that everyone loves — including returning favorites Gala and Honeycrisp and the classics McIntosh and Empire. Select from the abundance of varieties available; such favorites as Zestar, Jonamac, and Macoun. Zestar is early season apple that’s juicy, with a light and crisp texture.

 Also consider newer varieties such as RubyFrost and SnapDragon. The RubyFrost’s blend of sweet and tart flavors and its crisp texture make it a great choice for eating as is and in for use in baking salads and sauces. The sweet juicy SnapDragon is characterized by a “monster crunch.” One of its parents is the Honeycrisp, and you’ll love the spicy/sweet flavor.

Once you get home with your bounty, make some delicious apple treats.

Fall’s Best Apple Pie

Pastry for a 2 crust deep dish 9-inch pie

8 cups peeled, cored, sliced apples

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 cup boiled cider or undiluted apple juice concentrate

2 teaspoons vanilla extract, optional

2 tablespoons butter, diced in small pieces

For the crust: Divide dough into two pieces, one about twice as large as the other. The larger piece will be the bottom crust; the smaller piece, the top crust. Pat each piece of dough into a disk about 3/4” thick.

Roll each disk on its edge, like a wheel, to smooth out the edges. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling.

Preheat the oven to 425° F .

Lightly grease a 9” pie pan. Combine the sliced apples and lemon juice in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt, and spices. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples, and stir to coat them. Stir in the boiled cider (or apple juice concentrate) and the vanilla, if you choose to use it.

Roll the larger piece of pastry into a 13” circle. Transfer it to the prepared pan, and trim the edges so they overlap the rim of the pan by an inch all the way around. Spoon the apple filling into the pan. Dot the top with the diced butter.

Roll out the remaining pastry to an 11” circle. Carefully place the pastry over the apples. Bring the overhanging bottom crust up and over the top crust, pinching to seal the two and making a decorative crimp. Prick the crust all over with a fork, to allow steam to escape. Or cut decorative vent holes, if desired. Alternatively, you can weave a lattice.

For extra crunch and shine, brush the top crust with milk (or an egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon of water), and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Crimp the edges of the pie, then place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up the crust while the oven finishes heating.

Place the pie on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the pie for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and bake for 40 minutes more, until you see the filling bubbling inside the pie (and perhaps dripping onto the parchment). Check the pie after half an hour of baking time, and cover the edges with foil or a pie shield to keep them from browning too quickly, if necessary.

When the pie is done — you should see the filling bubbling vigorously, either around the edges, or via any decorative vents — remove it from the oven.

Cool the pie completely before slicing, really. (Cutting any fruit pie that’s still warm is a messy business. The filling continues to thicken as the pie cools, and if you cut it too soon it will run out all over the place.)

Store any leftover pie, lightly covered, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.

McIntosh Country Apple Crisp

4 cups (4 apples) sliced McIntosh apples

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup oats

1/3 cup margarine, softened

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Heat oven to 375° F. 

2. Arrange apples in a greased 8”square pan.  Mix remaining ingredients, sprinkle over apples. 

3. Bake until topping is golden brown and apples are tender, about 30 minutes.  Serve warm.