“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”…. In her book An Apple a Day: Old Fashioned Phrases and Why They Still Work, author Caroline Taggart says this bit of old-fashioned advise originated in Pembrokeshire, Wales around 1860 as “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” The phrase gently evolved to “an apple a day, no doctor to pay” and “an apple a days sends the doctor away”, arriving at its current rendition relatively recently, in 1922.
At just 80 calories, apples are fat, cholesterol and sodium free while high in fiber, pectin, vitamins and minerals. In fact, a medium apple has about 4 grams of fiber, the near equivalent to a bowl of bran cereal, but without the long list of subsidiary ingredients.
Apples are associated with lower risks of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Experts attribute the heart-healthy benefits of eating apples to antioxidant compounds found in in the skin and pectin, which help prevent “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and also inhibit inflammation. Eating Well Magazine reports that researchers analyzing National Health and Nutrition Examination Study (NHANES) data, a survey of eating and health habits, found that people who had eaten apples in any form over the past day were 27 percent less likely to have symptoms of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms linked to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, than those who did not. Data indicated that apple eaters also had lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation whose presence in the blood suggests an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Apples are perfect in desserts marrying well with vanilla, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, mace, cardamom and clove. At breakfast they pair perfectly with dried fruit, granola and tangy plain yogurt. In salads and entrees, especially those with poultry, pork, squashes or bitter greens, their sweetness contrasts with savories such as rosemary, thyme, sage and lemon. As part of a cheese platter, the subtle nature of the apple offsets cow’s milk cheeses, pungent washed rind cheeses and many blue cheeses.
Since each apple offers its own taste, texture and aroma, individual varieties are better suited for particular applications than others. For example, while Red Delicious and McIntosh apples are juicy, sweet and tart, they are also grainy and somewhat soft (my son says they are just plain old mushy) making them not ideally suited for baking.
On the other hand, Granny Smith, Jonagold and Cortland apples are tart and hold their shape well when baked, making them excellent for pies. Extra crisp and juicy Fuji and Winesap apples are great for snacking and salads. Of course, many heirloom varieties are appearing, which are an culinary adventure to find and use that the entire family can engage in and enjoy.
Listen to your mother and this fall aim to eat an apple a day. Challenge yourself to go beyond Red Delicious and HoneyCrisp, apple pie or applesauce. There are as many apple recipes as there are apple varieties—thousands of each. So start with these, but go on to try others of your own. If you find something great, let me know!
Some Apple Tools:
I love my OXO apple corer, because it is strong. I had a stainless metal one that just bent and finally broke. Useless. I also like my corer/slicer, which makes prepping bags and bags of apples a breeze. This being said, you don’t need any apple contraptions. Just grab a paring knife and go all Sleepless in Seattle with that peel. Working by hand is definitely not as messy as either the corer or the slicer, which let the apple juices run out…..
Apple sauce is so simple, so delicious and potentially so nutritious, it would be a shame not to make it. If you leave the peel on the fruit, the sauce becomes an interesting and beautiful rosy to deep pink color, depending on the type of apple you choose. This makes it an elegant side or a fun lunch item. Canning the sauce, while intimidating to some, isn’t difficult at all. For good canning help, refer to www.freshpreserving.com or the Ball Blue Book® Guide to Preserving.
- 8 or so red-skinned apples, cored but not peeled, quartered or roughly sliced–enough to fill the bottom of a heavy pot.
- 2 TB raw sugar, or 1 TB honey/agave nectar to taste (optional)
- 1/4 ts cinnamon OR
- 1/4 ts apple pie spice
- 1/4 ts coriander (optional)
- In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the apples with ¼ cup water, cover and cook over low heat until the apples are very soft, 15-30 minutes.
- Let the apples cool, uncovered, then strain or (even better) press through a food mill into a bowl. If you peeled the apples, just mash them.
- Stir the sugar or honey in gradually, adjusting to taste. Do the same with the spices, if you choose to use them. If you want thicker sauce, return to the pan over moderate heat, stirring to reduce some of the liquid.
Ree Drummond from The Pioneer Woman Cooks has a great visual tutorial for applesauce if you like fancy pics.
- Preheat oven to 425
- Peel, core and slice apples into thin slices. Alternatively, chop the apples roughly.
- Combine the juice, zest, spices, sugar and butter in a large bowl.
- Add the apples to the bowl.
- Sprinkle the flour over the apples.
- Using your hands, mix the apples and spices together, being sure to coat each piece of apple with the mixture.
- Lay the bottom crust into your pie plate.
- Layer the apples concentrically around the crust. or just pour them over the crust, making sure all the crust is covered.
- Put the top crust on. #1 chose a lattice pattern. Not easy for her first pie, but a solid effort!
- Combine extra cinnamon with the extra sugar.
- Brush the crust with the egg wash, then sprinkle all over with the sugar.
- Bake the pie at 425 for about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, Turn the heat down to 375, cover the rim of the pie with foil so it doesn’t burn. Return it to the oven and bake about 1/2 hour more or until the crust is golden and flaky and the apples are bubbly.
- 1 sheet puff pastry** kept very cold
- 4 apples, cored, peeled, sliced
- frangipane (optional)
- 1 TB lemon zest + juice from the lemon
- 4 TB butter, melted
- 2 TB milk
- sliced almonds
***Go the extra mile to get all butter puff pastry. I like Dufour, but I swear they make Trader Joe’s which is much cheaper and super good. Don’t go for the chemical-laden, standard yuck if at all possible.
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Combine the cinnamon, sugar and lemon zest.
- Measure the puff pastry into equally sized squares. I like 3-4 inch squares maximum.
- Prick the pastry all over with a fork.
- Spread the frangipane all over each square, leaving a broad 1 inch border OR
- sprinkle a little cinnamon-sugar over the center of each square
- Lay the apple in a pretty fashion on the pastry. You can do it as simply as I did here, or you can alternate the slices. Let your apple speak to you.