An Apple a Day…

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I felt my first snowflakes of the year this week.

Sad, but true.

I was riding my bike, wearing sunglasses to protect my eyes from the winter-announcing wind, and heard a “tink, TINK!” as small, solid objects hit the lenses.

And then I felt it.

Cold wet bites against my cheeks.

Snow.

It was a shock to the system.  I mean, it shouldn’t have been – after all, winter only happens every year – but I always seem surprised when it suddenly arrives.  It seems like only last week I was harvesting hot peppers from the garden.

Actually, come to think of it.  Two weeks ago I was harvesting hot peppers from the garden…

Ah, well.

Anyhow, bundle up, folks.  We’ve got 5-6 months of much worse ahead of us.

Now, just because we’ve left summer behind us, it doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy fresh local fruit.  Living in Peterborough, we have one of nature’s perfect foods available to us all winter long.

Apples!

Sure, the year’s apple-picking season is now officially behind us.  But they are one of the best storage foods that exist.  We’ll be eating local apples until the first local strawberries begin next year.

I’ll be blogging a lot about apples throughout the winter.  They are versatile enough to inspire countless recipe ideas.

With apples, I tend to make a lot of kid fare. First and foremost, applesauce. Making your own applesauce gives you the perfect school snack for weeks to come, and it’s simple to do. Just  peel, core, and chop apples. Place in a large, heavy pot with just enough water to prevent them from sticking and burning. Cook on medium-high heat until soft – anywhere from five minutes to a half-hour depending on the variety. You may want to turn the heat down slightly for more firm varieties. When they’re good and tender, smash and smoosh them with a potato masher – another very fun activity for your kids. Add a few dashes of cinnamon or nutmeg.

Natural Caramel Apples

Speaking of kids, they’ll totally love this recipe.  While I missed blogging this for Halloween, it is still a great seasonal treat.  This time of year offers up a greater variety of apples – including some softer ones that won’t store throughout the winter.  I love using Courtland Apples.  Get them during the next few weeks at market.  They won’t be around forever.

Ingredients:

1 cup local honey
1  cup heavy cream
a generous pinch coarse salt (kosher or pickling salts work fine)
6 apples (on popsicle sticks)

Procedure:

In a thick-bottomed pot, warm the cream and salt until just before a boil (small bubbles should be forming). Slowly mix in the honey and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce to a slow simmer and cook for roughly 15 minutes or until the mixture reaches just over 250 degrees (the “hard ball” stage for candy making). Gently immerse the pot into cold water to prevent the caramel from overcooking – be sure that none of the water enters the pot. Continue stirring until the caramel reaches the point that it will easily coat your apples without running off. Don’t worry if it gets too thick. You can put the pot over the burner for a few seconds to thin it out a bit. Dip apples into caramel and set on a parchment-lined baking pan or cutting board to cool and set.

Caution: the stove-top candy-making process can be very hot. You may want to wait until the dipping portion of the recipe to involve the kids.

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