From Sour Apples to Sweet Apple Desserts
Apples have come a long long way since the days of Johnny Appleseed!
Johnny Appleseed was a travelling apple nursery man, land speculator, missionary and all-round saint, according to legend.
Johnny’s apple trees were grown from seed, the apples were small & sour, and used for hard apple cider, which pioneers drank in abundance.
Sweet apples and apple desserts came later, when European apple varieties came on the scene, and American apple breeders got into the act.
Johnny may be rolling in his grave at what’s become of his apples, but most of us are fine with it. We like our apples edible.
Following Johnny Appleseed’s heyday, hundreds of sweet apple varieties were developed. Sadly, most of them are now heirloom varieties, which means they’re seldom grown, and rarely seen in grocery stores.
But we’re happy with our Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Jonathon, Jonagold, Fuji, Gala, McIntosh, Cortland, Northern Spy, Granny Smith, Ida Red, Red Rome, Braeburn, Empire apples and more – found in stores and lunchboxes throughout the land.
Why do we love apples so much? Well they’re sweet & juicy, tart & crunchy, endlessly versatile, not horribly pricey, widely available, come in pretty colors, cook beautifully …. what else?
Oh yeah! Apples are NUTRITIOUS!
You’ve probably heard that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and it’s true, depending on what else you eat.
Apples are high in fiber, have plenty of Vit. C, and are full of anti-oxidants. They even have Vit. K, B6 and Omega 3 & 6. Plus they’re ridiculously low calorie.
Of course like all those other fruits & veg, most apple nutrients are in the skin, so throw the peeler out the window.
Countless Ways to Eat Apples:
You’re only limited by your imagination, and how much you like to surf recipe blogs and read cookbooks, because there are about a million ways to eat apples.
And what’s great about all those centuries of apple breeding? Apples are usually so sweet, they need little or no added sugar.
That must be why fresh and raw is the world’s favorite way to eat apples. Those with a bit of patience and refinement like to core & slice, then dip their apple slices in melted caramel, chocolate, or nut butter.
When apples are plentiful and inexpensive in the fall, we make big batches of our unsweetened apple sauce recipe, then eat it for breakfast or snacks.
We add applesauce to gluten free bread and pancakes as an egg replacer, flavor booster, and natural sweetener. Applesauce is also great in low fat vegan cake and applesauce raisin spice muffins. Delicious ways to use up all the applesauce!
Baked apples are delicious too, and super easy. Kids can make them, maybe with a little help coring. Baked apples only work if you dig out the core 2/3 of the way through the apple – NOT all the way through!
Then there’s apple pie. As in American as Apple Pie.
What could be more patriotic than baking and eating one of the thousand or so variations on apple pie? We’re classical apple pie people – 2 crusts, apples and a little sugar in the middle, a bit of cornstarch. Except we make a vegan pie crust – not that anybody can tell the difference.
If we’re having a party or just feeling festive, we’ll use that vegan pie crust for luscious apple crumble tarts, with a sweet crumb topping.
When we’re feeling adventurous or ambitious or both, we’ll make a lattice crust or a crumb crust for our apple pies. If we’re unambitious, we’ll just do the crumb topping and call it apple crisp.
Maybe just for fun, throw in some raisins with the apples, although feeling tends to run high on whether or not raisins belong with apples. If you’re not adding sugar to your pie or crisp, then raisins can be a nice addition. Liquid stevia works too.
Apples are ideal in salad recipes because of their sweet, crunchy, tart, juicy attributes. Carrot apple walnut salad is one of our family faves, and more recently, kale slaw with chopped apples and a curried almond dressing.
Juicing or making a smoothie? An apple, quartered and cored, will sweeten things up, especially when you’re using greens – the sweetness of the apple will balance the bitterness of the greens.
Are you fond of apple juice? Then you’ll love fresh apple cider, usually made at local apple orchards in the fall, and often available at farmer’s markets. Look for it! Use it (or regular apple juice) to make our mulled apple cider recipe – fresh apple cider or juice heated with whole cinnamon stick, cloves and cardamom.
While you’re at the farmer’s market, pick up a bushel of apples, go home and start appleing up a storm in the kitchen.
Have fun with apples this winter!
Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian