Saturday, October 23, 2010

an apple a day

Fall is upon us, my favorite time of year. I can finally break out my sweaters and tights and the air has a delightful crispness that makes the blue sky seem higher and the colors of the changing leaves pop. Last week, we decided to venture into the North Georgia mountains for some leaf peeping and apple picking. We stopped at the B. J. Reece orchard on Hwy. 52, between Ellijay and Dahlonega. We had tried our hand at the apple festival in Ellijay, but it turned out to be more craft and food vendors than apples so we met up with our friends Megan and Brad and ventured eastward to get the coveted apples ourselves. As always, it is more fun to get your food straight from the source than to pick it off a supermarket shelf. The orchard was crawling with people seeking the perfect apple, the perfect symbol of the season. The Arkansas Blacks and Rome Beauties were at their peak, and we picked as many as we could carry.

There are so many treats that can be made with pie, crisps, butter and applesauce...caramel and candied apples. The list goes on and on. I began my apple indulgences by making apple butter and applesauce. My husband has been on me to make some granola, as well, so while I was being inspired by the apples, I made him a treat.

For homemade granola, preheat your oven to 350. Combine 2 quarts of rolled oats with 1 cup sliced almonds, 1 cup chopped walnuts, 3/4 c vegetable oil, 3/4 cup local honey, 2 tablespoons flax seeds, 1 tablespoon vanilla soy protein powder, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix thoroughly and spread out on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, stir with a wooden spoon to ensure even browning and then bake for another 5-10 minutes until everything is well toasted. Allow to cool and mix in chopped dried fruit, if you like. Serve with fruit and yogurt or some milk or soymilk.

I adapted the apple butter and applesauce recipes from The Gourmet Cookbook.

For apple butter, combine 4 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8 pieces each, 1 1/2 cups of unfiltered apple cider (you can buy this at the orchard when you go to pick apples), 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, until the apples soften.

Run the mixture through a food mill and return it to the pan. Continue to simmer 20 minutes to an hour over medium low heat, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pan to keep the apple butter from scorching and sticking. When the apple butter appears ready, test it by putting a small glop on a plate and refrigerating it for 1 minute. Tilt the plate and if it stays in a glop and doesn't run, it is finished. Keep the apple butter refrigerated and spread it on toast or biscuits or between two pieces of bread that you then make into delicious stuffed french toast. Glop is a trademarked technical term.

For applesauce, combine 1 pound apples, peeled, cored and diced, 1/2 cup apple cider, 1/2 cup sugar, finely grated zest of 1 lemon, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 2 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer. Cook 15-20 minutes, until the apples are soft. Mash with a potato masher until smooth. Eat as a snack or serve alongside latkes or pork chops or on pancakes. Yum, all the things you can do with it.

Well, that is all the appley goodness that I have for you. Things are moving right along with the restaurant and I am about to be able to make some exciting announcements about it, so check back soon.

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