Falling for apples

M.F.K. Fisher wrote a book called Consider the Oyster. Today, let’s consider the apple. Apples are thousands of years old. They have roots in Asia, so many Talmudic scholars believe Eve probably did not tempt Adam with an apple because apples did not grow around Eden. She likely plucked a fig from the Tree of Knowledge instead.

While strolling through the Reading Terminal Market two weeks ago, I discovered, much to my delight, that Lancaster County farmers are growing Gala apples along with Jonathans, Jonagolds, McIntosh and other varieties. When I was a girl, the usual choices were red delicious, golden delicious and Rome beauties. Now we have Fuji apples, Braeburns, lady apples, Empires, Winesaps, Smokehouse, Granny Smiths and a host of others.

Although New Zealand provides the world with apples during its cooler months, when we are sweltering here in Philadelphia, I like to eat Pennsylvania apples in season. Autumn arrived on Monday, so the time is here.

The apple is the quintessential American fruit. We are not as American as peach pie. We do not bring pears to our teachers. A plum a day does not keep the doctor away. I guess the marvelous legend of Johnny Appleseed makes the apple the all-American fruit. They are grown in Washington, which produces the finest red delicious apples in the land. Although I prefer to buy Pennsylvania apples, New York grows marvelous Rome beauties, while West Virginia is now getting into the apple-growing act.

Whether they are eaten out of hand, added to the lunch box, saut�ed with cinnamon and served with roast pork, or baked in a pie, fall is the time for apples.

Here are apple recipes from Betty Groff Cookbook: Pennsylvania German Recipes ($29.95, RB Books, hardbound with full-color photographs). Betty and her husband Abe own and operate Groff’s Farm Restaurant in Mount Joy, Lancaster County. Betty is a dear friend and if you have never been to Groff’s Farm, autumn is a colorful time of year to take a ride into the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside.

Honey Apple Crisp


6 to 8 baking apples (such as Rome beauties), cored, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup dry oatmeal
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/3 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash each of cloves, ginger and nutmeg
1/4 cup honey


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the lemon juice and water in a large bowl. Toss the sliced apples in the liquid until completely coated. Pour into a buttered 2-quart baking dish. Combine the flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, butter or margarine, cinnamon, salt and spices in a medium-sized bowl. Cut with a pastry cutter or by hand to make fine crumbs.

Spread the crumbs evenly over the apples. Drizzle the honey over the top and bake uncovered for approximately 40 minutes, or until the crisp bubbles around the sides.

Serve warm with milk, cream, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Serves six.

Apple Butter


12 pounds apples such as Winesap, Smokehouse or Jonathan (do not use delicious)
2 cups water
3-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Wash, core, peel and slice the apples. Place the apples and water in a large pot. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until the apples are soft, approximately 20 minutes.

Place the apples in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until smooth. Return the mixture to the pot and stir in the sugar, vinegar, salt and cinnamon, mixing well.

Pour the mixture into a heavy roasting pan and bake uncovered in a 375-degree oven for approximately two and a half hours. Stir every 15 minutes with a wooden spoon to prevent burning around the sides. If the mixture starts to get very brown around the edges, reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Be sure to blend well while stirring to ensure an even color when finished.

The apple butter is ready to jar or freeze when you can place 2 tablespoons of it on a saucer and turn it upside down without it dropping off.

Ladle into hot sterilized jars and seal with new lids and rings, or cool and ladle into clean freezer containers. It will keep for several weeks.

Makes 3-1/2 quarts.

Note: To make pear butter, substitute pears for apples and add 1 teaspoon nutmeg.



4 pounds apples such as Jonathan, Winesap, Smokehouse, Stayman, etc.
2 cups water
1-1/2 cups sugar, less if desired
Pinch of salt


Wash, core, peel and quarter the apples. Place water in a large saucepan, add the apples and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low until the apples are soft, approximately 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and press through a food mill or sieve. If you prefer a chunky sauce, use a food processor or hand masher.

Place the applesauce back into the pan and stir in the sugar and salt. Check for sweetness, adding more sugar if desired.

Over low heat, bring to a boil, stirring for about five minutes. Serve warm with a dash of cinnamon or spiced whipped cream. (Recipe follows.)

Makes 3 to 4 cups.

Note: You can use Granny Smith apples in this recipe, but since they are tart, you may wish to add more sugar to taste.

Spiced Whipped Cream


1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Whipped cream


Place the curry powder and nutmeg in a small skillet and heat over low heat until slightly dark and it smells great, approximately two minutes. Cool and fold into whipped cream.