Monday, October 8, 2007

The Apple of My Eye

The great thing about eating seasonally is that the shift from spring to summer and summer to fall is not just something you notice when the temperature starts to change-it's also what you eat. While heaps of late season peppers, tomatoes and eggplant still fill my local farmers market, the peaches I lived on all summer are nowhere to be found. The nectarines have disappeared. Plums no longer gleam like jewels on every table. Instead the stalwart apple has arrived, overflowing bins and buckets, rolling under tables and into street gutters and filling the bags of early morning shoppers.

There have got to be as many recipes for cooking apples as there are varieties of them. I lug home some of my favorites (York, Rome, Jonathon, Pink Lady) almost every Sunday from early fall through spring. I have been cooking apple-y dishes (Ok, fine, desserts) for weeks now.

An Apple Spice Yogurt Coffee Cake using Chocolate and Zucchini's ever-adaptable recipe.

A Sweet Potato and Apple Galette with apple butter glaze which has long since been devoured:

So yummy! I wish I had made some vanilla ice cream to go along with it...

But this week was special. This week, instead of buying apples from the market, I got to pick the suckers myself! On Saturday, after stuffing myself liberally with brunch, I hopped into a friend's mini-cooper convertible with Scottish flags on the side view mirrors and we zoomed off down rural roads under a very summery sun, bound for apple country.

We ended up at Homestead farm, where we took a sweaty hayride to find pumpkins and then refreshed ourselves with some cold cider before heading off into the apple orchards with bushel baskets and a map in hand. An hour or so later we somehow managed to cram ourselves, 4 enormous pumpkins, a 6 foot tall firefighter, assorted winter squash and 50 pounds of apples into the mini convertible and wended our merry way home.

It was only when I walked in the front door of the apartment that I realized exactly how much 20 pounds of apples is. I had eating apples, but most of the apples I had picked were the cooking kind. Visions of apple pie had plagued me for weeks. I was especially keen on trying out the sour cream apple pie from FXCuisine. But 20 pounds of apples makes an awful lot of pie and since I wasn't planning on opening a bakery, I had to figure out something else.

So I made apple chutney. I grew up with mango chutney, something that people make out of desperation in an attempt to deal with massive quantities of mangoes lying around, so I figured the same could be done with apples. A quick search landed me on the Epicurious website where I had a couple choices to choose from. I finally decided on an Apple Ginger Chutney that had gotten good reviews. I thought about doubling the recipe but then decided to stick with the original quantities in case it didn't turn out. Of course, I just had to make a few adjustments to the here is the recipe as I made it.

Apple Ginger Chutney

4 large Granny Smith apples, cored and chopped into small pieces

2 cups minced onion

1 red bell pepper, minced

1 cup golden raisins (I used regular raisins with no ill effect that I could see)

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/4 cup minced peeled fresh ginger root

3/4 teaspoon dry ground mustard

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

About 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

1/2 jalapeƱo or other chili pepper, finely minced (optional, but the pepper flakes just didn't seem like enough spice for me)

3 clean pint glass jars with lids


1. As you can see, this recipe requires a lot of chopping and mincing, so make sure your knife is sharp and your wrist limber. Get out a pot, place the glass jars in it tops down, and put in the lids, then pour in several inches of water to cover the lids and the jar mouths. Put on medium high heat while you chop and mince your ingredients. Let the jars boil for at least 10 minutes to sterilize them before filling them with chutney.

2. Chop and mince everything in the list of ingredients. The original recipe calls for the apples to be peeled, but I just gave them a good washing instead.

3. Put all the ingredients including the vinegar and sugar in another large pot with a lid. Bring to a boil, then let cook on medium high until everything is soft and the syrup begins to thicken. I found that stirring it too often was a bad idea as a lot of the water evaporated off and I ended up with too little liquid. So I recommend you stir only occasionally and keep the lid on the pot until the chutney is ready. (Conversely, if you have too much liquid and its very watery looking, please ignore this advice and stir away).

4. Pour the hot chutney into your sterilized jars and seal. Let cool upside down. This recipe only made about 5 cups when I did it, although it is supposed to make 6. Maybe one of my apples was too small.

This stuff is spicy, sour and sweet: definitely chutney! Try it with some pork, or maybe roast beef for a nice sweet and sour accent to your meal. Remember-its a condiment, so don't overdo it or you will be sorry when all you can taste is chutney. Also, when cooking any kind of pickled item, the vinegar smell can sometimes overwhelm, so be prepared to open a window if necessary (or bake an apple pie afterwards to mask the smell). Although this didn't use up my 20 pounds of apples (the next day I made apple sauce and got rid of some more), it did utilize a few Granny Smiths and produced a different kind of apple product from the more typical pies, crisps and sauces that come out of my kitchen this time of year.


KJ said...

These all look delicious. The chutney sounds fantastic. I have copied your recipe to try at a later date.

Lyra said...

Awesome, I hope you like it. I have to say I don't know much about what veggies and fruits are common in Canberra. How cold does it get there?

Michele said...

Just yesterday I was devising a recipe for a sweet potato tart -- but your sweet potato and apple galette looks better! Will you please share the recipe? I can't tell if you mashed the sweet potatoes or left them in chunks.