By Elizabeth Wulfhorst |
Lately pumpkins have been getting all the love, turning up in everything from traditional breads and pies to those ubiquitous lattes and even salsa and pasta sauce. But as much as it seems as if that other fall staple, the apple, has been pushed to the back burner, according to the U.S Apple Association, American apple producers grow, on average, 240 million bushels each year. The wholesale value of the U.S. apple crop annually is close to $4 billion.
In fact, the U.S. is the second largest producer of the crispy, crunchy, sweet, tart fruit. There are more than 7,500 varietals of apple, a member of the rose family. While only the sour crab apple tree is native to America, the U.S. now grows more than 2,500 varieties, thanks to European settlers. Gala, a variety that originated in New Zealand in the 1930s is now the No. 1 apple variety grown in America, followed closely by Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji and Honeycrisp. It’s estimated that 52.4 million 42-pound units of Gala apples will be produced in 2018.
According to U.S. Apple Association, the national trade association for the apple industry, the first orchard in America was planted around 1625 by William Blackstone in Boston. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were both well-known apple orchard cultivators.
The top three apple-producing states are Washington, New York and Michigan. Two thirds of those apples are grown just to be eaten fresh while the other third is used in apple products like juices, ciders and applesauce. It takes about 36 apples to create 1 gallon of apple cider.
And that saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Well, apple juice was one of the earliest prescribed antidepressants. And apples are a great choice as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. They contain no fat, sodium or cholesterol, are a good source of fiber and a medium-sized apple has only 80 calories.
So it makes perfect sense we would sprinkle them with sugar and cinnamon, wrap them in buttery dough, cover them in caramel or dip them in peanut butter and chocolate.
While eating apples are a personal preference, when baking, certain properties need to be considered. A tarter fruit can balance the sugar in pies and cakes. And certain varieties hold up better to high heat without turning to mush – but those are great for sauce. Some good, readily available choices for baking are Jonagold, Braeburn, Gala, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith and Winesap.
How about them apples?
For the dumplings:
4 apples, pared and cored
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons butter, divided
Pastry for 8” two-crust pie
For the sauce:
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 ½ cup water
2 tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Milk or cream and cheddar cheese, for serving
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Lightly coat a 9-by-9-inch dish with cooking spray.
Roll out dough into a 14-by-14-inch square. Cut into 4 equal pieces. Place one apple on each square. Mix together the 1/3 cup sugar with the 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Fill each apple with 1/4 of the mixture. Bring opposite corners of each pastry square up over each apple to completely encase the apple. Work the dough to cover any holes. Place dough-wrapped apple in the prepared dish.
Make the sauce. Heat the brown sugar, water, butter and cinnamon in a small saucepan to boiling. Boil three minutes. Remove from heat and carefully pour around the apples into the dish.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, tenting with foil if the crust starts browning too quickly.
Serve warm with milk or cream and a wedge of aged cheddar cheese.
Adapted from Betty Crocker
This article was first published in the Sept. 20-26, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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