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Bless Your Spoon: Apple harvest time brings a myriad of fresh recipes

Apple harvesting begins in August, but prime time apple picking season runs from September through early October. When fall rolls around, I plan a road trip to a nearby orchard – where I can harvest my own directly from the tree.

This year I checked out a nice little orchard in Morganton. Due to weather conditions, apple production was limited. To make sure there would be enough apples for picking, an online, pre-purchased, pick pass with a time slot was required.  That was okay as so many orchards offered no possibility for picking your own.

Planted rows of varietal apple trees dominated the landscape. Those happy hills – namesake for the orchard – were the perfect backdrop for folks strolling between wide tree rows while enjoying bites of juicy, fresh apples. Children, as well as adults, were delighted, filling straw baskets to the brim.

Harvesting and cooking food is a fulfilling pastime.Growing one’s food cultivates an even greater sense of satisfaction. If you can’t grow your own, pick your own farms are a good way for adults and children to get hands-on experience with nature. Searching for the perfect apple – and reaching up to snap it loose – give kids a sense of satisfaction. The activity also helps connect food on their plates to what’s grown in the ground.

Every fall, I add a few new apple recipes to my baking repertoire. Crisp, juicy apples make a sweet addition to any dish – even meats. From appetizers to your meal’s grand finale – apples are most versatile. Today’s recipes keep it simple: apples compliment meats, add to savory side dishes and make delicious, sweet desserts. You can’t go wrong here.

Choose any kind of good cooking apple – Granny Smith, Jonagold, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, Winesap, or Pink Lady. Apples need to retain a firm texture and hold their own during cooking and baking.

Nothing makes a home smell better than oven-baked apples with a few dashes of cinnamon.

Another bonus? The comforting feeling that another fall season has arrived.

FRUITED SAUCE FOR PORK

1 peeled, cored thinly sliced, red cooking apple

1 Tbsp. melted, salted butter

1 chopped shallot

2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

½ cup apple juice

1 ½ Tbsp. whole grain mustard

½ Tbsp. Dijon mustard

Pinch of ground cloves

In a saucepan, melt butter, and saute thin apple slices for 4 minutes until tender. Set aside. Add shallot to skillet, and saute until golden. Add vinegar and cook until absorbed by shallots. Add apple juice and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced by half. Add mustards and cloves and return to a boil. Boil until mixture is syrupy and slightly thickened. Add apple slices back to the sauce. Serve over ham slices or any pork dish.

APPLE AND BLUE CHEESE CROQUETTES

1 large peeled, cored, diced, Granny Smith Apple

1 fresh lemon

4 Tbsp. melted, salted butter

2/3 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for breading

1 lb. blue cheese

3 beaten egg yolks

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper

All-purpose flour

2 beaten eggs with ¼ cup water

1 pkg. ground croutons

Dice apple. In a bowl, squeeze lemon over apples and set aside. In a saucepan, melt butter. Blend in flour. Add cheese a little at a time until incorporated. Fold in beaten egg yolks and mustard. Salt and pepper to taste. Fold apples into cheese mixture. Spread mixture in a pan and chill for 2 hours. Form into 8 patties and chill. When ready to fry, dip each patty into flour, then egg wash, and crouton crumbs. In a heavy skillet, heat oil to medium heat and fry medallions for 3 minutes or until golden. Serve over salad greens or as a side dish to pork.

NEW ENGLAND APPLE ORCHARD PIE

1 beaten egg

¾ cup sugar

1 cup sour cream

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/8 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. nutmeg

3 cups diced apples

1 9-inch prepared pie crust

Topping:

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

¼ cup salted butter

1 tsp. cinnamon

In a mixer bowl, beat egg. Add sugar and mix well with whisk or fork. Don’t use mixer. Add sour cream and vanilla and whisk. Add sifted flour, salt, and nutmeg, and whisk until smooth. Fold in apples. Pour into a pastry-lined pie pan. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350-degrees and bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven. While baking, prepare topping by combining flour and sugar. Cut butter in flour mixture and add cinnamon. Sprinkle over hot pie. Return to a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes or until brown.

SWEET APPLE AND YAM CASSEROLE

4 baked, peeled, sliced yams

2 peeled sliced cooking apples

1 cup light brown sugar

¼ cup salted butter

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 cups water

2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

In a butter greased casserole, layer yams and apples. In a saucepan, add brown sugar, butter, cornstarch, water, and lemon juice. Mix well and cook until it thickens while constantly stirring. Pour over the yam/apple mixture. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour.

PRETTY HACK APPLE PIE

1 9-inch store-bought frozen, deep-dish apple pie

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

2 Tbsp. soft, salted butter

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 Tbsp. sugar

Thaw pie out for 30 minutes. Remove pie crust with a knife. Stir cinnamon and nutmeg into apple filling. Carefully spread butter over apples. Cut the crust into 1 ½ inch strips and weave across top of filling like lattice, crimping edges. Brush top with beaten egg. Don’t allow the egg to puddle. Sprinkle with coarse grain sugar over top. Bake pie in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour or until crust is golden brown. Let stand 20 minutes before cutting. Serve with whipped cream or homemade vanilla ice cream.

APPLE COCONUT POUND CAKE

3 beaten eggs

2 ¼ cup sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. soda

1 tsp. salt

1 cup Wesson vegetable oil

3 cups peeled, chopped cooking apples

2 cups chopped pecans

½ cup flaked coconut

Drizzle:

½ cup light brown sugar

¼ cup whole milk

½ cup salted butter

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar and vanilla and mix well. Add flour, soda, and salt while alternating with vegetable oil. Mix well. Fold in apples, pecans, and coconut. Mix well. Bake in a well-greased and floured tube pan in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool 10 minutes and remove from pan. Drizzle glaze over hot cake. For glaze, in a saucepan, combine sugar, milk, and butter. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes while constantly stirring. When lukewarm, drizzle over cake.

APPLE AND CARROT CASSEROLE

2 cups sliced fresh carrots

4 cups peeled, diced apple quarters

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

6 Tbsp. sugar

1 ¾ cup fresh orange juice

Salted butter

In a saucepan, cook carrots until tender and drain. Peel and quarter apples. In a casserole dish, put apples on bottom. In a bowl, combine flour and sugar. Sprinkle ½ mixture over apples. Add carrots and sprinkle with remaining mixture. Dot with butter. Pour orange juice over all. Bake in a 350-degree oven until apples are tender.

SLOW COOK CINNAMON APPLES

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

6 peeled, cored, sliced Granny Smith apples

½ cup light brown sugar

½ cup sugar

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. nutmeg

6 Tbsp. melted, salted butter

In a bowl, place sliced apples. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice. In another bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Sprinkle over apples and stir until thoroughly coated. Place apples at bottom of a crockpot. Drizzle with melted butter. Cook on low for 3 hours or high for 2 hours. Apples can be served as a side dish, over ice cream. Puree mixture if making applesauce.

APPLES WITH RED CABBAGE

32 oz. jar sweet-sour red cabbage

1 halved, sliced medium onion

1 chopped 1-inch, tart red apple

¼ cup raisins

½ tsp. caraway seed

In a saucepan, combine cabbage, onion, apple, raisins, and seed. Bring to a boil and cover. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 15 minutes or until apple is tender. Drain if necessary before serving.

APPLE AND PORK STUFFING BALLS

1 beaten egg

8 oz. seasoned stuffing mix

¾ cup hot water

1 lb. original Jimmy Dean pork sausage

¼ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped tart apple

¼ cup chopped celery

½ tsp. baking powder

In a mixer bowl, beat egg. Add stuffing mix and hot water. Mix well. Break sausage into small pieces and add to stuffing mix. Add onion, apples, celery, and baking powder. Mix well. Shape into ¼ cup balls and place in greased baking pan. Cover with foil and tightly secure. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove foil. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 more minutes or until sausage is done.

APPLE CREAM CHEESE SALAD

3 oz. lime Jell-O

2 tsp. sugar

2 tsp. fresh lime juice

1 cup chopped apple

3 oz. lemon Jell-O

2 tsp. sugar

2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. salt

3 oz. cubed cream cheese

1 cup chopped pecans

Prepare lime gelatin according to directions. Add additional sugar and fresh lime juice. Pour into 1 ½ quart dish and refrigerate. As mixture begins to congeal add chopped apple. Return to refrigerator to congeal completely. For 2nd layer, prepare lemon gelatin according to directions. While hot, add sugar, fresh lemon juice, salt, cubed cream cheese, and pecans. Stir until cream cheese melts. Refrigerate until mixture begins to congeal. Then pour over congealed lime layer. Chill again until entire salad is thoroughly congealed. Cut in squares to serve on lettuce leaves.

BAKED BREAKFAST APPLE PUFF

1 beaten egg

¾ cup sugar

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 ¼ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

1 cup chopped apples

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. almond extract

Confectioners sugar

Whipped cream

Maple syrup

In a mixer bowl, beat egg. Add sugar and beat until dissolved. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into egg mixture. Mix well. Add apples nuts and flavorings. Pour into well-greased cast-iron skillet or 8-inch pie pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Serve with dusting of confectioners sugar, whipped cream, and maple syrup.

MY FAVORITE APPLE SALAD

2/3 cup raisins

1 cup boiling water

½ cup premium mayonnaise

3 Tbsp. sour cream

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. sugar

2 cored, cubed, golden delicious apples

2 cored, cubed, red delicious apples

1 1/3 cups seedless red grapes

½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 1/3 cup miniature marshmallows

Boil raisins in boiling water for 5 minutes or until softened. Drain and dry. In a bowl, whisk mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, and sugar together until smooth. Gently fold in cubed apples, grapes, and nuts. Mix well. Very carefully fold in marshmallows until thoroughly incorporated. Adjust mayo/sour cream for extra creaminess.

SAUSAGE, APPLES, AND KRAUT

1 drained, large can sauerkraut

6 quartered small red potatoes

1 sliced onion

3 peeled, cored, sliced apples

1 lb. cooked kielbasa sausage

1 ½ cup apple juice

To a pan, add kraut, potatoes, onion, apples, and sausage. Mix well. Pour apple juice over all. Cover and steam for 1 hour or until potatoes are tender. Season to taste. Serve with wheat bread and German-style mustard.

APPLE-FRESH LEMON TART

1 beaten egg

¾ cup sugar

1 peeled, grated, large apple

1 rind and juice of fresh lemon

Pastry

In a mixer bowl, beat egg. Add sugar and mix well. Add juice and grated rind from lemon. Mix well. Fold in apples and mix thoroughly. Line an 8-inch tart pan with pastry and add filling. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Serve cold with whipped cream.