Category Archives: apples

Recipe: Not-Mincemeat Pie (Spicy Apple & Dried Fruit Pie)

The combination of sweet, savory, and above all, spicy found in mincemeat hearkens back to the pre-modern kitchen. Finely chopping (mincing!) meat and mixing it with suet, fruits, and spices not only used up leftover, odd bits of meat but stretched the available protein. The use of late apples and dried fruits made it a perfect winter dish, and it was a Christmas specialty by the sixteenth century. Gradually, less actual minced meat was included in the recipe (though suet is still commonly used), and by the mid-nineteenth century, mincemeat in both England and the Americas was what we would recognize today.

I didn’t grow up with it, but I sure do love me some mincemeat. I don’t think it’s common in Hawai’i at all, but every Christmas when we were shopping at Kahala or Pearlridge, Mom and I would stop by See’s Candy for mincemeat and marzipan chocolates (they have since discontinued their mincemeat candies, due to the lack of a reputable supplier. Jerks.). I loved them; they were so foreign, so exotic, and yet so quaint, something out of a Louisa May Alcott or L.M. Montgomery novel. I didn’t get to try a mincemeat pie until I was twenty-one, and visiting my relatives in Western New York (Buffalo). My Cousin Johnny Stevenson’s Quebecois then-wife baked one for my little sister and I, and it was a revelation (she also introduced me to turnips and rutabagas–oh, my!). I was in love at the first bite, and have often been baffled that mincemeat pies are so unpopular in the Pacific Northwest. After all, they use some of our finest ingredients, such as apples and dried berries. When I found this pie in November’s Sunset Magazine, I knew I had to make it for Thanksgiving.

For my pie, I used half Calville Blanc and half Newtown Pippin apples, both heirloom varieties I picked up at the Portland Nursery Apple Tasting Festival this year. They made for a phenomenal pie, with perfect taste and texture. This is a very messy, bubbly pie, so be sure to either place a foil-lined cookie sheet on the rack beneath your pie, or line the floor of your oven. This is a very rich, intensely-flavored pie, not for the faint of heart or full of stomach. Continue reading


Recipe: Apple Crumb Pie with Nut Crust

After the Apple Tasting Festival at Portland Nursery, I found myself in need of some apple pie–amazing how that works out. I couldn’t find the recipe my sister Maiya gave me last year, so I looked for a patty-pan crust and nice crumb topped recipe to try. The first one I came across that looked delicious and trustworthy was Martha Stewart’s Apple Crumb Pie with Almond Crumb Crust. This worked out nicely since I had some walnuts I wanted to use up before they got rancid, and well, apples and walnuts go really well together. This also gave me the perfect opportunity to use my little nut grinder, which I so dearly love. I used a few Newtown Pippins and  two Spitzenberg apples; you’ll remember the latter from last year’s Apple Tasting, but the Newtown was a runner up, only picked because they were out of Cox’s Orange Pippin and all the new heirlooms I wanted to try (save the Calville Blanc, which is excellent). They were fantastic in the pie, with a complex sweet-tart flavor.

I must say, this was not only the best apple pie I have baked, it might be one of the best I have ever tasted. I don’t know whether it was the perfect combination of apples, nuts, and recipe, or what, but everything came together marvelously. The filling was almost custard-like in its rich smoothness, but the apples retained their bite. The crust was like a nutty shortbread, and not at all soggy. The only improvement I would try would be to use brown sugar, but I was out of it. Guess I’ll just have to make it again! I wanted to try a hazelnut crust, or even the original almond, anyways …. Continue reading

Baked Apples

baked apple with bleu cheese

baked apple with bleu cheese

Mother didn’t like the idea of my going to a strange boarding-house, so Miss Mills kindly made a place for me. You know she lets her rooms without board, but she is going to give me my dinners, and I’m to get my own breakfast and tea, quite independently. I like that way, and it’s very little trouble, my habits are so simple; a bowl of bread and milk night and morning, with baked apples or something of that sort, is all I want, and I can have it when I like.” —Louisa May Alcott, An Old-Fashioned Girl

Elisha: I thought these up this morning when Schatzi and I were beyond hungry and trying to figure out what I could possibly make with the little ingredients I had available. I saw Schatz’s bag of apples and thought to myself jokingly that I could make baked apples. Then a second later I realized that was a great idea.

You may leave the blue cheese off, and they will still be delicious, but even someone like Schatzi who has a love/hate relationship with blue cheese thought that it added an amazing creaminess and sophistication to an otherwise homey dish.

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Fried Apples n’ Onions

He knelt on the ice, pushing sawdust into the cracks with his mittened hands, and pounding it down with a stick as fast as he could, and he asked Royal, “What would you like best to eat?”
They talked about spareribs, and turkey with dressing, and baked beans, and crackling cornbread, and other good things. But Almanzo said that what he liked most in the world was fried apples ‘n’ onions.
When, at last, they went into dinner, there on the table was a big dish of them! Mother knew what he liked best, and she had cooked it for them.
–Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy

fried apples n onions

fried apples n' onions

Of all the Little House books, which are so often concerned with how and what the family ate, it is Farmer Boy that features the most food, and is a virtually paean to the pleasures of old fashioned home cooking. The Wilder family breakfasts and suppers are Lucullan feasts of suckling pig, ham, roast goose, chicken pies, doughnuts, mincemeat, custard, raisin, berry, vinegar and apple pies, ice cream, and so on. The amounts of food Almanzo tucks away seem wildly improbable and indulgent–and also may have finally satisfied a writer who remembered living through periods of near starvation on the country’s frontiers.

Thinking again about the Little House–as I am wont to do–I remembered Almanzo’s beloved fried apples n’ onions when deciding what to have alongside Eli’s porkchops. They are a perfect accompaniment to pork, with an excellent balance of salty, savory, and sweet. We had the porkchops (that Eli is still perfecting), garlicky mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, and fried apples n’ onions. We’d planned on Brussel sprouts, too, but sadly did not see any we liked.

Eli devised these based on my suggestion; we feel that equal parts of apples and onions are important to balance it. We used more of my heirloom apples, Spitzenburgs this time, which were fantastic–and more likely to be similar to the apples consumed by Almanzo in nineteenth century New York. Be sure to use a good cooking apple that will retain both shape and bite. And we used white onions for a good onion flavor. I’m sure one could skip the bacon and simply use butter for a pork or meat-free version, or used sausage even. Ooh, good idea! The leftovers were great with fried eggs and bacon this morning.

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Apple Cake

apple cake in the pan

fresh out of the oven

Schatzi: I’m not sure why, but I was haunted by apple cake recently. While perusing Slashfood at work (don’t tell!), I came across this intriguing recipe, and that same day came across this one in the New York Times while randomly trolling for cake recipes. And while going through Fashionable Food by Sylvia Lovegren, I found yet another similar recipe in the Seventies chapter. Apparently, I was fated to make an apple cake.

According to Lovegren, “Apple cakes of various types were extremely popular in the Seventies, both with Suburban Gourmets and their urban brethren. [ … ] This recipe was copied at many a club meeting across the country in the Seventies—but unlike other such formulas, it still tastes good. And it doesn’t have a particularly strange texture, although it is very moist. I believe the original recipe first appeared in Sunset magazine in the early 1950s.”

I used the NYT Teddie’s Apple Cake recipe, though mine differs slightly. For one, I am mad for brown sugar, and use it whenever I can, so I substituted half the sugar for dark brown sugarnext time, I would probably use only golden brown sugar. I’m also a bit of a spice addict, and this recipe seemed so richly fruity that it required more spice. So I added extra cinnamon, as well as some nutmeg and a dash of allspice (more like Bunny’s Apple Cake recipe). That’s the gingerbread coming out in me yet again. The Fashionable Food recipe, and the one Lovegren mentions in Sunset both contain chocolate, in the form of cocoa and melted chocolate, respectively, but I don’t see that as necessary. The end result of my cake was a moist, old-fashioned cake of the highly fruited variety with just the right amount of spice. The dark brown sugar gives it a mild caramel flavor and a slightly gooey texture, and it’s great warm or cold, plain or a la mode. My brother-in-law gave it a “delicious” on the “Okay-Good-Delicious” scale.
continue for the Apple Cake recipe!