Such a glorious time of year. Yesterday afternoon I walked through a grove of deciduous trees with the sun pouring through the yellow and orange leaves bathing everything in golden light. Today, just picked apples are baking in our oven filling every room with the fragrance of cinnamon and spice.
There are so many comfort foods that come into season in the fall: sweet potatoes, cranberries, pumpkins, pears and apples. An abundance of apples actually—as there are over 7500 apple varieties cultivated around the world in every shade and combination of red, yellow and green. Although local supermarkets now sell a number of kinds of apples, the best place to taste and experiment with some of the heirloom varieties that may only grow in a particular state or portion of the country is at local farmers’ markets.
Choose Organically Grown Apples
Along with their crisp texture and sweet-to-tart taste apples are also superbly nourishing, supporting our overall health to a degree unmatched by other fruits. However, did you know that apples top the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen” list? (Yes, apples.) Of all the fruits and veggies they test, apples have consistently high amounts of pesticide residue. This is definitely one fruit to always eat organically grown, as even peeling them only partially reduces this residue.
Johnny Appleseed—preacher & nurseryman
Many of the apple trees grown throughout Ohio, Indiana and Illinois can be traced to John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed. Rather than randomly planting apple trees, Johnny Appleseed actually planted nurseries. While others would manage these nurseries, selling the trees on credit to local farmers, Johnny walked barefoot across these states singing his traveling song, and ministering and preaching to all who would listen.
I first learned Johnny Appleseed’s “traveling song” at Girl Scout Camp, yet it remains one of my favorite meal-time blessings. Sing this lively tune before any meal, though perhaps especially before enjoying any dish prepared with apples.
Oh, the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need, the sun, the rain and the apple seed.
The Lord is good to me. Amen.
The apple juice keeps the apples moist and tender. While the apples bake, the juice reduces and becomes the perfect sauce. The fresher the apples the better they hold their shape when cooked even if they aren’t necessarily considered “baking” apples.
Yield: 4-6 servings
4 medium organic apples
1 ¾ cups unfiltered apple juice at room temperature
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
¼ cup juice-sweetened dried cranberries
2 tablespoons butter
Peel, core and cut the apples into thirds. Place them cut side down in a glass or ceramic baking dish that will hold them snugly and all in one layer. Add the apple juice, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and cranberries, and dot with the butter. Tightly cover the dish with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.
Take the baking dish from the oven and remove the foil. Turn the apples over and return them to the oven to continue baking uncovered (here I put the baking dish on a cookie sheet to help contain the splatters) until tender when pierced with a fork, about 40-45 minutes depending on the size of your apples.
Serve the apples in their juice right from the oven, at room temperature or chilled. Delicious with yoghurt or a bit of whipped or ice cream.