October is one of the best months to make a trip out to the farm for a little pick-your-own apple fun.
"Apple-picking season starts at the beginning of September and goes through the first weekend of November, but late October is definitely my favorite time to be out there," said Brian Smith, owner and head grower of New Hope's Solebury Orchards. "All of the leaves are changing colors, and you get lots of varieties as you head later into the season, like Fuji and Braeburn, Stayman, Winesap, and Pink Lady."
With so many varieties available at nearly every local farm, it's hard not to fill up your box to the point that you have apples rolling around on every inch of your kitchen counter.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to use your bounty, from classics like pie and crisp to easy-to-make options like slow-cooker apple butter to more challenging and less traditional dishes, like apple challah and pork and apple jus. These recipes call for a minimum of five apples, and all will help you put a delicious dent in what you pick and take home.
Pork & Apple Jus
Makes 2 cups
Jus is a French culinary term for "juice." It refers to a sauce made by fortifying and reducing a stock, broth, or roasting juices, and is typically used to sauce cuts of meat. Kensington Quarters chef Matt Harper recommends liberally spooning this apple version on top of a juicy pork chop.
3 lbs. pork bones (obtainable from most butchers at places like Reading Terminal, Italian Market, Whole Foods, etc.)
1 yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
½ stalk celery, diced
1 piece ginger, diced
1 clove garlic, cut in half
5 apples (choose a tart variety, as for a pie), chopped with skin on but cores removed
1 cup brandy
1 cup apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
2 allspice berries
3 cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
1 bunch fresh thyme
4 quarts water
Salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 350. Spread the pork bones out in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Roast in the oven for 30-45 minutes. Remove from oven and set bones aside to cool.
In a 12-quart stock pot, heat the pork drippings from the roasted bones. Saute the vegetables and apples in the stock pot for 5 to 7 minutes, or until caramelized. Add the cinnamon stick, allspice berries, and cardamom pods and toast for 1 minute. Deglaze with the brandy and apple cider; then add the bay leaf and thyme. Stir in the water, and bring to a boil.
Turn the heat to low, bringing the liquid to a low simmer, and skim off any impurities. Simmer for at least 12 hours, ideally overnight. Add water as necessary to keep all ingredients covered.
After 12 hours, strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer, discarding the apples and vegetables. Return the liquid to the pan, and reduce the heat to medium-low; continue to cook until the jus is reduced to 2 cups. Season with salt to taste, and serve with a pork chop.
— Matt Harper, chef at Kensington Quarters
Yields 5 quarts
Store-bought applesauce simply doesn't compare to the much more intensely flavored homemade version. This recipe will keep for up to one year in the freezer; feel free to make a smaller batch by dividing the recipe according to the number of apples you wish to use.
16 pounds (30 to 40) apples, cored, quartered, and unpeeled
6 cups water
Optional: large finger of peeled ginger
6 tbsps. fresh lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
Maple syrup or sugar, to taste
Combine the apples and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the ginger, if using. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until the apples start to fall apart.
Remove the sauce from heat. Pass the cooked apples through a food mill, with the mixing bowl catching the puree. Return the puree to the pot, and add the lemon juice, cinnamon, and maple syrup or sugar, to taste.
Let cool before transferring to containers. Store applesauce in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week or in freezer-safe containers for up to one year.
— "The Homemade Pantry," by Alana Chernila (Clarkson Potter 2012)
Vegan Apple Crisp
Yields 6-8 servings
Without the fuss of a crust, apple crisp can put a warm and sweet-smelling treat on your table in as little as an hour. This version from Food52 uses coconut oil to create a decadent, buttery topping — no actual butter needed.
For the apple filling:
7 cups (about 8 to 10 medium-size) sweet-tart apples (such as Gala or Jonagold), peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch slices
1 tbsp. lemon juice
¾ cup sugar or light brown sugar
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
⅛ tsp. cloves
⅛ tsp. salt
1 ½ tbsp arrowroot or cornstarch
½ cup water
For the crumble topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup quick oats
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ cup melted coconut oil
Preheat oven to 350.
Place the apples in a large mixing bowl and toss with the lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Put ingredients into a greased 9×13-inch baking dish.
Whisk together the arrowroot and water, and pour the mixture over the apples. Toss them lightly with your hands to get everything coated with the arrowroot.
Place the flour, oats, brown sugar, nuts, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a food processor and pulse a few times to incorporate everything. Add the coconut oil and pulse the ingredients quickly until they form large crumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the apples. Bake for 40 to 55 minutes, or until the apples are bubbly and the topping is golden brown.
Basic Pastry Dough for Double-Crust Pie
One double crust
Use with the recipe for Rum Raisin Apple Pie.
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ sticks (12 tbsps.) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
¼ cup cold vegetable shortening
½ tsp. salt
Blend together flour, butter, shortening, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or with a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) lumps.
Drizzle 5 tbsps. ice water evenly over mixture. Gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated.
Squeeze a small handful of dough; if it doesn't hold together, add more ice water, ½ tbsp. at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated. Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.
Turn dough out onto a work surface. Divide into 8 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather all dough together with a pastry scraper.
Divide dough with one half slightly larger, then form each into a ball and flatten into 5-inch disks. If dough is sticky, dust lightly with flour. Wrap each disk in plastic and chill until firm, at least 1 hour.
— Gourmet Today (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2009)
Rum-Raisin Apple Pie
Raisins steeped in dark rum add extra complexity to classic apple pie. For layered flavor, use a variety of apples ranging from sweet to tart.
3 tbsps. dark rum
1/3 cup raisins
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tbsps. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. salt
6 medium apples, ranging from sweet to tart
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tsps. milk
1 tbsp. sanding sugar or granulated sugar
Pastry dough for a double crust (see recipe)
Bring rum with raisins to a boil in a heavy 1-quart saucepan, then remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 1 hour.
Put a large heavy baking sheet on the middle oven rack and preheat oven to 425.
Rub together brown sugar, flour, zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt with your fingers in a large bowl until no lumps remain. Peel and core apples, then cut into ½-inch wedges and add to sugar mixture, tossing gently to coat. Add raisins with any liquid and toss until combined.
Roll out dough into a 13-inch round (keep remaining dough chilled) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate (4-cup capacity) and trim edge, leaving ½-inch overhang. Chill shell while rolling out top crust.
Roll out remaining dough on a lightly floured surface with lightly floured rolling pin into an 11-inch round.
Spoon filling evenly into shell, then dot top with butter. Brush pastry overhang with milk, then cover with to crust. Trim pastry flush with edge of pie plate, then press edges together and crimp decoratively.
Lightly brush top of pie with remaining milk and sprinkle all over with sanding sugar. Cut 3 steam vents in top crust with a small sharp knife.
Bake on hot baking sheet 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 and continue to bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 45 to 50 minutes more. Cool pie on a rack, about 1½ hours.
— Gourmet Today (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2009)
Round Apple Challah
Yields 2 large loaves
8-10 Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes
3 cups light brown sugar
2¼ tsp. active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
8¼ cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, plus 2 large eggs to glaze the challah
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1½ tbsp. kosher salt
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup turbinado
For the apples
Preheat the oven to 375. Toss the apples with the light brown sugar. Bake for 10 minutes on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drain the cooked apples in a colander and set aside.For the challah
1. Mix the yeast with the warm water in the bowl of a standing mixer. Let sit for 10 minutes until foamy. Add the flour, four eggs, oil, and salt. Using the hook attachment, mix on low speed to combine the ingredients, then increase speed to medium-high. Knead until the dough comes together and pulls away from the side of bowl, approximately 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic in texture.
Place the dough in an oiled mixing bowl and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise in a warm spot in your kitchen until it has doubled its volume, about 1½ to 2 hours.
Punch down the dough to deflate it, then turn it out onto a clean surface. Divide it in half, then divide each half into four even pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece to a rectangle approximately 24 by 4 inches.
Place some of the apple mixture down the middle of each rectangle. Fold the dough over to create a tube and pinch the seams to seal in the apples. Gently roll each tube on the counter with your hands to smooth out the seams. Be careful not press too hard to keep the filling contained.
To braid the challah, place two of the apple-filed pieces next to each other lengthwise on a floured surface. Weave two other apple-filed pieces horizontally over and under the center of the vertical pieces of dough. There should be two pieces pointing in each direction, resembling a plus sign (make sure there are no gaps where the pieces of dough intersect).
In a clockwise motion, place each piece over the piece to its right. After completing this four times, which is one single round of folding, repeat in the opposite direction.
Repeat the steps until no more dough remains, and tuck the end pieces beneath the now round loaf. Repeat paragraphs 1-3 with the remaining four apple-filled pieces to form the second loaf.
Place the loaves on a greased, parchment-lined baking sheet. Spray the tops of the challah with nonstick spray, and drape a kitchen towel over each loaf. Let the loaves proof in a warm area of the kitchen until they have almost doubled in size, approximately 1 1⁄2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the two eggs together with 2 tbsps. of water in a small bowl. Lightly brush the surface of the loaves with the egg wash. Sprinkle the surface with turbinado sugar, and put the loaves, uncovered, on the middle rack of the oven to bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown. The internal temperature of the bread should reach 200 F. Let the loaves cool fully before slicing. Serve with butter and honey.
— Chef Yehuda Sichel of Abe Fisher
Easy Slow-Cooker Apple Butter
Yields about 2 cups
This easy apple butter uses a slow cooker to do most of the work. Weavers Way Co-op chef Bonnie Shuman loves to spread it on flatbread and top it with caramelized onions, prosciutto, Gorgonzola, and arugula.
2 lbs. apples, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Add chopped apples to a slow cooker and top with remaining ingredients. Cook on low heat for 10 hours. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Spoon into jars. Refrigerate for up two weeks or store in the freezer for up to six months.
— Chef Bonnie Shuman of Weavers Way Co-op
Yields 1/2 gallon
In Italy, mostarda is a popular sweet, spicy, and sour condiment often served with antipasti. Usually, it includes whole small fruits that are candied and then seasoned with very strong mustard. Russet's Andrew Wood has created a version that incorporates the sweet and sour concept with a zip of spice. He recommends serving it with charcuterie, roast pork, or pork chops.
10 lbs. heirloom apples, such as Cortland, peeled, cored and sliced
5 lbs. sugar
2 cups grainy mustard
2 tbsps. mustard powder
Combine the apples and sugar, and toss well until the sugar starts to dissolve. Place in a large bowl; wrap well and allow to sit overnight in the refrigerator.
Place the apples and sugar in a large pot, and bring it to a boil over medium heat; if the mixture is very dry, add a cup of water to keep the bottom from burning.
Once the contents come to a boil, immediately use a slotted spoon to remove the apples from the heat and set them aside in a bowl.
Continue to cook the sugary juice over medium heat, reducing it until the liquid becomes a lightly thickened syrup, about 1/3 of the original volume. Depending on the size of the pot, this should take around 20 minutes.
Return the apples to the pot, and continue to cook over very low heat until the apples are just tender. Fold in the mustard and mustard powder until fully dissolved. Chill again overnight. The mostarda will keep in the refrigerator for about one month.
— Andrew Wood, chef and co-owner of Russet