Last night, a tree came down in the neighborhood and the power went out for a few hours. It didn’t really impact our evening much, but I noticed I felt disoriented and clumsy as I went about getting supper ready, eating and cleaning up dishes. Routine, ritual, the repetition of daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly life is vital to our sense of well-being. And I rely on it to make me feel safe, give me a sense of belonging, and to make life feel meaningful.
For me, apple picking is that kind of ritual. I have done it every year since the age of three, except one. It took a full cycle of seasons or me to find the fortitude to resume it in the permanent absence of my apple chucking “little” brother and his bounding golden pup. All the other years of my life, we have invited friends, pets and family, traipsing up and down hills, climbing trees and sampling liberally to choose the crispest and most flavorful fruit we could find. I like a nice balance of sweet and tart.
We packed up a two day old Megan in a pouch and drove down the mountain to pick in September of 1990. I made applesauce to put in the freezer so that would be her first solid food when she was ready to supplement breast milk in early spring. She told me she wasn’t crazy about pureed fruit and never would be so I ate it myself!
When I was pregnant with Brian, on a long run, I discovered the Jonagold, shining in a beam of light, bright red, huge, I remember it calling to me. I snuck under the fence. It was a revelation! I like them slightly underripe; they are great for eating out of hand, for baking, and for sauce. I’m also a big fan of the Mutsu. And this year, the Golden Delicious were spectacular, spicy and snappy. Who knew?
My dad and Bob both love apple desserts and I love making them: pies, tarts (including tatin), betties, crumbles, and cakes are all fun to bake and wonderful with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. But my favorite is the crisp.
You can do so much with this recipe. The other day, I added some raspberries (which we picked at the orchard, an October raspberry is exceptional). You can vary the nut, use a different fat, use pears or add cranberries or raisins…the options are almost infinite. I use organic ingredients if I can get them. It’s best to peel the apples, but I usually don’t bother. I don’t like cinnamon or nutmeg in apple desserts, I think they are too dominant. But if you do, add some.
1 stick unsalted butter, cold, cubed
½ cup rolled oats
½ cup ap or white whole wheat flour
½ cup brown sugar
Zest of ½ lemon (optional)
Juice of ½ half lemon
1/3 cup almonds
pinch of salt
3 really big or 4 medium apples (Golden Delicious or Jonagold are great), cubed
½ cup brown sugar
1 tbs. cornstarch
Juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp. vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9 inch round or square pie, cake or brownie pan. Glass, metal or ceramic will all be fine. Toss all the filling ingredients together in a big bowl. Taste liberally to give yourself strength to finish the baking. Prepare an extra apple because you have pilfered so much.
Put all the crisp ingredients into the food processor and whiz together until well combined. Taste this too, but not too much because there’s no good way to throw together extra without messing up the proportions and having to start over. Which is discouraging.
I like to throw a small handful of the crisp onto the bottom of the pan before I add the filling. Sort of like a little cheater bottom crust. Add the apples and then strew the topping artfully over top.
Bake 30-40 minutes until the topping is browned and the apples are soft (poke or taste carefully). Let cool a few minutes before serving. I prefer to serve a crisp warm with vanilla or caramel ice cream. But room temp is fine. Snitching right out of the pan is good, too. Leftovers store well, covered, for a few days in the fridge. Reheating in the microwave is not ideal, but it’s buttery oats and fruit, what could be bad?
And if the power is out and the microwave doesn’t work, eat it cold, it’ll warm your heart anyway!