The New Englander’s favorite fall and winter fruit
The apple crop is the quintessential New England harvest. Although not native to North America, the apple represents all we hold dear about life in the United States. “As American as apple pie” says it all.
Food historian Constance J. Cooper says settlers carried seeds from Europe to North America. In 1625, William Blaxton, an Anglican priest, planted New England’s first apple orchard on land that became Boston’s Beacon Hill. Cold winters, cool summer nights, and rocky farmland did not inhibit the yield of beautiful, crisp, juicy apples.
In home cooking, apples are a mainstay. Baked whole and served alongside roast pork, added to poultry stuffing, or served raw and sliced with salads, they show up in every course of a meal. We add them to chicken salad, serve them with cheeses, and cook them with raisins, pears, herbs, and spices for chutneys.
But our favorite apple recipe remains apple pie. Nothing compares with an afternoon spent apple picking and bringing home fresh apples to make a pie. We include our favorite pie recipe and also give you a simple free-form tart variation to make with less fuss. Warm from the oven, served with vanilla ice cream or Jimmy’s favorite—a thick slice of aged cheddar—it is a classic dessert perfect for fall or for any time of year.
A word of caution. Every apple has a different amount of sweetness and of natural pectin. Pectin releases as apples cook, letting them bind slightly together and making for a beautifully thick pie filling. Generally, the riper an apple, the more pectin it contains and the less thickening agent you will need. Use your favorite kind of apple, and to thicken the filling, put in a tablespoon of flour, a bit of cornstarch, or, for very ripe apples, no thickener at all. It is best to blend tart and sweet apples. Sweeter apples include Golden Delicious, Braeburn, and Jonagold. Tarter ones are Granny Smith, Empire, and Cortland. Experiment to find your favorite combination.
We also give you an easy recipe for apple and butternut squash soup, combining two of our favorite ingredients and as nutritious as it is delicious. This recipe makes an elegant hearty soup that you can top with fried sage leaves or sautéed apples. It freezes well and, served with a salad and fresh bread, makes a perfect Sunday night autumn meal.
Classic Apple Pie
Preheat oven to 425°F
For the crust:
1. Blend flour, salt, and sugar in a food processer until combined.
2. Add the butter and shortening or lard and pulse until mixture begins to blend and resembles the size of small peas.
3. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time until the dough is slightly tacky and sticks together.
4. Divide the dough in two and cover each ball with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least two hours. Roll into two disks large enough for a 9-inch pie plate leaving about 1 ½ inches overhang.
For the filling:
3 pounds (6–8) firm apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1. Blend all together and fill the pie shell with apple mixture.
2. Dot with tiny pieces of butter. Top with second crust and crimp the edges to seal. Bake at 400°F for 50–60 minutes.
For a free-form tart:
1. Roll the dough into a large (16-inch) circle and place dough on an ungreased cookie sheet.
2. Place the apples on top of the dough and spread to 2 inches from the edge.
3. Fold up the edges all the way around and pinch the dough to seal, leaving the middle open. Bake at 400°F for 20–25 minutes.
Apple and Butternut Squash Soup
About 2 quarts
4 cups roasted butternut squash (See roasting instructions below.)
For the squash:
1. Cut the butternut squash lengthwise, then in half to make 4 sections, scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
2. Wrap loosely in foil, place on a baking pan, and roast in oven pre-heated at 375°F for 1 hour, or until squash is tender. When cool, scoop out, discard skin, and reserve.
For the soup:
1. Melt butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add the onions and apples; sauté until the onions turn translucent, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the stock, herbs, and reserved butternut squash; bring to a simmer and turn the heat to low.
4. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Water may be added at any point if a thinner texture is desired. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you would like a smoother soup, blend with a stick blender or move mixture to a food processor and blend to desired consistency.