Sunday, August 21, 2016

Gravenstein Apples

I just plucked the last apple off the Gravenstein apple tree I planted about a dozen years ago. I have been inundated! And this was the first year I got big apples – bigger than I expect Gravensteins to be.

Gravenstein apple on my tree

I'm not sure my freezer can hold any more apple products. I've got 7 apple pie fillings, a couple of apple crisps, the lemon/apple combination for a couple of Lemon-Pecan-Apple cakes, and 5 pints of applesauce.

Just a few of the many

I've shared quite a few pies at potlucks, a couple of the apple cakes and given pints of applesauce to several friends. And I still have a couple of refrigerator drawers filled with apples. My nephew, Simon, said that if you have that apple cake, there's no need to make any other kind of cake. I think I got the recipe from my Aunt Mary and don't remember her being much of a cook, but this is a winner.

Lemon-Pecan-Apple Cake

Lemon-Pecan-Apple Cake

3 medium apples
1 large lemon
1 cup butter, melted
½ cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup chopped pecans

Peel, core and chop the apples and toss in a bowl with grated rind and juice from the lemon. Pour the melted butter into a large bowl and add the oil. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and add the vanilla. Beat in the sugar. Stir in the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder. Stir in the chopped apples and pecans. Pour into a greased and floured 10” tube pan. Bake at 350° for about one hour, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove the outside part of the pan. When the cake has cooled, remove it from the rest of the pan. Make the glaze and spread on the cake.

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 Tbs. butter, softened
1 large lemon
1 Tbs. honey

Grate and squeeze the lemon. Combine all the ingredients, using 3 Tbs. lemon juice. Spread on the cake.

I planted the tree because my parents had one when they lived out in Bennett Valley. It produced the same bounty and my mother made and froze pie fillings and applesauce. But there were so many apples that for a few years I made cider – without a cider press. I'd quarter the apples – just to make sure there would be no worms in the cider – and then throw them in my food processor (I had the heavy duty one) and chop them up, skins and all. Then I'd squeeze them in cheesecloth – with my own two hands! - and it took forever. But the cider was worth it. I can't make it anymore. My arthritic hands aren't strong enough.

Julia helping in my mother's kitchen

It took me right back to my childhood in the Northeast – to the thick, rich cider we'd get in the Fall. My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Buckley, lived on a farm that was a couple hundred years old and in the barn there was an old-fashioned cider press. We took a field trip to her farm and made cider. I remember singing “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” on the bus to the farm – I'm sure the driver was happy it was a short trip.

But the memory of cider, sugared cake doughnuts and the smell of burning leaves is an indelible part of childhood and is one of the reasons I still feel I'm more a part of the Northeast than California, though I've lived here more than two-thirds of my life. And it's ironic that an apple tree, of a variety that grows in California, never fails to take me back.

Apple Pie

Apple Pie

2-1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
½ cup cold butter
½ cup organic shortening
½ cup orange juice

Combine the flour and salt. Cut in the butter and shortening (I use a pastry cutter with flat blades – the wire ones aren't very strong.) Add the orange juice (I start with 6 T. and add more if the dough doesn't come together) and mix with a fork until it starts to come together. Divide the dough in two balls, working it until the dough comes together enough to roll.

8 apples, preferably Gravensteins (6, if they're really big)
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup flour
½ tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. allspice (more if you like allspice)

Mix all the ingredients except the apples in a large bowl. Peel, quarter and core the apples and thinly slice them. Mix them with the dry ingredients.

Roll out half the dough and line a pie plate (the little foil ones are not big enough!). Fill with the apple filling. Roll out the other ball of dough and place on top of the filling. Crimp. Cut several slits in the top pie crust.

Bake at 400° for 20 minutes, reduce to 375° for about 40 more minutes.

Note: I actually don't measure any of the filling, so it's an approximation. Also, sometimes I add the grated peel of a lemon, or ½ a pint of blackberries, or some chopped dried apricots and chopped candied ginger. It's fun to play around with additions.

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