Things to know about apples:
- They are native to Central Asia. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Xinjiang, China.
- Xinjiang is China's northwestertly-most autonomous region. The population is majority Muslim and majority Uyghur. If you have a long memory for international news, you might remember the riots in Xinjiang's capitol city of Urumqi that left 156 dead, sparked by tensions between Uyghurs and Han Chinese.
- China produced 35% of the world's 55 million ton apple total crop in 2005, worth a hefty $10 billion. The US produced the second largest crop at 7.5%, followed by Iran.
- 60% of the apples produced in the US were grown in Washington state. Now if you don't mind, I'll be packing my bags and heading out this here door.
- The apple's wild ancestor, the Alma, can still be found today, along with its 7,500 children (cultivars), with their mind-boggling 57,000 genes (compared to our measly human 30,000.)
- Just about every apple you eat, except for the ones you grow yourself, was made through grafting. Probably every apple you grew yourself came from a grafted tree too, unless you started that bad boy as a seed. Speaking of starting apples from seeds, remind me to post a picture of my little apple tree.
- When I first read about grafting I was pretty bummed. You mean I can't eat my favorite apple, save the seeds, and grow my own favorite apple tree? But here's the thing: grafting assures quality. If you've ever read about Johnny Appleseed, you know that dude traveled parts of early America throwing apple seeds everywhere. Of the seeds that grew, probably 90% of the resulting trees would have produced godawful apples. Small, crabby, sour, mealy. Totally gross. Grafting removes the "Will this suck?" question from growing apples so you don't have to spend a couple years of your life nurturing a tree that will not make delicious apples.
- Apples show up in a lot of world mythology, the Garden of Eden debacle being perhaps the most famous.
- Though most apples get gross if stored over two weeks (unless they're stored in tightly controlled environments,) you can store Fuji apples for up to year under ideal conditions. This is what makes the Fuji unequivocally the best apple. Yeah, I'll fight you.
- And here is a list of apple cultivars, my favorites being,
- The Arkansas Black - super crunchy and can be stored for up to 6 months.
- Fuji - developed in Japan. Best for slicing and munching as dessert.
- Gravenstein - sweet, tart, begging to be juiced. I am happy to oblige.
- Honeycrisp - sweet and perfectly crisp. Another great snacking apple, best cold.
- Jazz - the wildcard. I've had some really good ones and some really bad ones.
Now that you're up to speed on apples, have some recipes.
8 Gala apples
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup lemon juice
Peel, core and chop apples.
In a large saucepan combine apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon.
Cover and cook over medium heat until apples are soft.
Allow to cool, then add lemon juice. Mash with fork or potato masher.
Makes 2 pints applesauce. Store in sanitized mason jars.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: ~25 minutes
For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup Earth Balance (I like the sticks), kept very cold. Seriously, don't take it out of the fridge until you absolutely have to.
3 tablespoons ice water
You can make this crust without a food processor, but it's a serious pain in the ass.
First, add flour, salt, and sugar to food processor bowl. Pulse a couple times to mix.
Remove Earth Balance from fridge, cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Drop those bad boys into the processor and pulse until the mixture resembles something mealy.
Now, add ice water one tablespoon at a time and pulse until dough looks crumby. After three tablespoon,s gently pinch a piece of dough together with your fingers. If it sticks, it's done.
Dump the dough onto a clean, lightly floured work service. Knead until the dough just comes together, then flatten into a disk. Wrap disk in saran wrap and stick it in the freezer.
Now, on to the innards:
4-5 Granny Smith apples, depending on size. You could do six if you're feeling feisty.
1/4 sugar, I used brown
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat your oven to 400F before doing anything else.
Peel, quarter, and core your apples. Slices cores into small wedges, about 6 per quarter. Place in a bowl. Dump in sugar, flour, cinnamon, and mix. Once combined, set aside.
Prepare a your cooking vessel! Take a cookie sheet, cover it with parchment paper, set aside.
Get your dough on the freezer and work quickly. Place it back on your clean working area, throwing away saran wrap, and gently roll out dough until it's a large disk, about 1/8 inch thick.
Once dough is flat, gently wind it around your rolling pin and transfer to the prepared cookie sheet. Unwind dough. You can use a little almond milk and flour to repair any large rips.
Dump prepared innards into middle of dough disk, creating a small mound. Now, carefully fold the long, floppy edges of your dough over the apple mound. You want to be careful to patch any rips or holes that develop in the dough lest some juice leaks out while it's baking.
Because we don't do an eggwash around these parts, you can omit it altogether or brush a small amount of almond milk on the dough.
Pop the whole thing in the oven and back for about 35 minutes.
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: about 35