Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Week 17 - Apples, Apples, Sweet Potatoes

There is much to say about this share, even though its bulk is made up by the gloriously familiar apple.

This week's share includes: Apples, Chard or Kale, Sweet Potatoes, Mustard Sprouts, and Gourds. You probably all know this, but don't eat the gourds, just admire them. They taste yucky.

The sweet potatoes were grown in the hoophouse. They are shaped more interestingly than those at the store and also, because they're freshly harvested, they're starchier. You can save them at room temperature for a few weeks to let them sweeten up or eat them now. They're tasty already, they just get sweeter with time. Don't worry if there is a broken end on one of your potatoes. Sweet potatoes "heal" so they can be stored even if they are broken. Just be sure to scrub off the dirt well before eating them, but not before storing them.
This one sweet potato is over a pound. So far our record is a three pounder.
We're stretching them over two weeks so that all the half share members will have the opportunity to eat some Upper Peninsula grown sweet potatoes (not something you see every day!), which means that while full share members will get about 2.5 pounds of sweet potatoes all together you won't them all at once. If you full share folks want to make a large dish with your sweet potatoes you might want to wait until next week and combine them.

But the true star of this week is the apples. Everyone is receiving a can-able quantity and, with the area's rich mining (and hard cider drinking) heritage, it's not unlikely that some members already have some apples of their own to contend with.

Some of our apples have scab, a fungus that does not affect eating quality
(at this level - sometimes it's severe enough to affect the texture),
just appearance. We do not treat it because we see no reason to spray
fungicides to treat a disease that doesn't hurt our fruit. We do minimize it
the best we can.
Our apples were likely planted sometime in the 1920's, when the house was originally built. We have two varieties that produce well, and we have no real way to determine what kind they are. We think that one of them (the one members will mainly receive) is Duchess of Oldengurg, based on input from neighbors and online descriptions of the fruit. They are a bit tart, but also spicy, juicy, and sweet. I love to eat them fresh but some may find them too tart. They are excellent cooking apples.

So, how should you cook them?

Eight Great Things to do with APPLES
  1. Sauce them. I use a food mill when I make apple sauce. I halve the apples but do not peel or core them. Simmer them in a heavy bottomed pot with about an inch of water (just so they don't burn) until they are completely soft, run them through the food mill, and can in quart sized jars (which require 20 minutes in a boiling water bath). If you don't have a food mill you can peel and core before simmering and then just mash them if they don't soften completely through cooking. Whatever method you use, you can add whatever sweeteners or flavorings you like as well. I like my applesauce plain.
  2. Make Apple Sauce Pie. If you find yourself with a few jars of applesauce on the shelf in mid January try making a pie with some. Combine three cups apple sauce, one and a half cups cream (or evaporated milk), four eggs, 2/3 cup sugar (if using unsweetened sauce), 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Pour it into a pie shell and bake at 425 for 15 minutes, and then at 350 until it's set (45 minutes to an hour). It's basically a pumpkin pie with apples instead of pumpkin and, as far as I know, I invented it (probably others have made it - but sometimes I like to pretend I am a genius).
  3. Make Apple Cake. I made an apple cake for Seda's birthday this year (with sungold tomato frosting - which was way better than it sounds) and she loved it. Your family will too. The internet is crawling with apple cake recipes and I actually forget which one I used. Be adventurous and try one!
  4. Caramelize them. Those of you that (wisely) eschew corn syrup should move on to the next idea. Those that occasionally indulge read on. Melt caramel cubes in a crock pot with a little bit of water (otherwise it gets all lumpy). If you are planning to do this with your kids keep in mind that it takes a while for the caramels to melt (about an hour on high in my crock pot) so prepare them for a wait. Once the caramel is smooth, dip in apples that have popsicle sticks stuck in them. Allow excess caramel to drip off and roll the apples in something good like peanuts, coconut, sprinkles, or crushed cookies. I especially like coconut. Have waxed paper on hand to set them on. They'll stick to whatever they touch!
  5. Saute them. Chop them into bite sized pieces (one apple per person plus an extra "for the pot") and saute them in olive oil or butter, depending on what you're going for. If you want something sweet add a bit of sugar or honey, some cinnamon or nutmeg, and a little vanilla. If you want something savory add some black pepper and garlic, chopped kale or chard, and a little balsamic vinegar or grate some cheddar cheese over them when they're done (which is whenever they're as soft as you like them). 
  6. Make Campfire Apples. Make a fire and let it burn to coals. Core apples, place each on a square of tinfoil and fill the middles with a little butter, rolled oats, sugar/honey, and dried fruit. Wrap up the apples in the tin foil and place them in the coals. Let them cook until they are completely tender.  
  7. Apples, Potatoes, and Sausage. To serve four people brown a pound of your favorite kind of sausages (I like to use sweet Italian for this - the fennel goes great with the apples) in a medium frying pan. Slice the sausage into 1 inch pieces, return it to the pan, then add 4 apples (chopped into bite sized pieces) and two large potatoes (sliced thinly) to the pan. Add a little olive oil if there isn't enough fat in the pan to keep the apples and potatoes from sticking. Saute until the sausage is fully cooked and the apples and potatoes are tender. This is great with homemade sauerkraut.
  8. Bake them with Sweet Potatoes. Core four apples. Slice them about 1/4 inch thick. Slice a pound of sweet potatoes 1/4 thick. Layer these slices so they are just overlapping in a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and freshly ground nutmeg. Add a tiny bit of apple juice or water (to just barely moisten). Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350 until tender, about 45 minutes.
WHEW! I hope you all enjoy your apples!

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