Fall is my favourite season. I love the vast harvest that comes along with living in Ontario. I crave the warmth and depth of heartier recipes that I have been waiting to cook all summer. And I LOVE apples.
On any given afternoon, I can be found with a bowl of creamy Full Circle peanut butter, sprinkled with coarse sea salt and a sliced Honeycrisp apple for dipping. It is the most satisfying snack.
My memories of apples include visiting the Orchard Home Farm with my family each year to pick apples — one year even discovering that despite Red Delicious apples looking a little different than the others…they still grew on trees. To this day my parents still, mockingly, tell that story at the dinner table.
After an afternoon of picking, and several months worth of apples, we would head home for my mother to make the tallest, most impressive apple pie I have ever had. She would cram her homemade Crisco crust with more apples than seemed possible, cinnamon, salt, a few pinches of butter and bake it until the smell became so overwhelming we could hardly think.
Aside from pie, apples can become quite a versatile fruit in both savoury and sweet preparations. Apples have a texture somewhat like a potato, with added tartness and sweetness. They can be an excellent addition to soups like celery root, parsnip, potato or squash and the topping to complete a brassica or bitter greens salad.
Muffins and pancakes can also be perfect vessels for shredded apples if you decrease the amount of other liquids, and allow the natural apple juice to “sweat” out into your batter.
If you enjoy having the occasional (or frequent) alcoholic beverage, many varieties of apples are used in the making of hard cider. I encourage you to try the offerings of Revel Cider, located in Guelph. Owner and operator, Tariq Ahmed, uses apples, pears and a variety of other fruits to create unique, spontaneously fermented ciders and wine hybrids.
Serious Eats contributor, Denise D’silva Sankhé shares a recipe for Apple Sabzi. This recipe is a savoury and delicious use for sweet apples, warm spices and coconut.
Alternatively, a quick Google search for “Oma’s Red Cabbage and Apples’’ will provide you with countless recipes for braised red cabbage — a household favourite to eat alongside perogies, plant-based sausages, or on its own topped with a handful of fresh dill. The apples add punchy acidity and tartness
This season I have been making a variety of hand pies, which are easier to share with friends during physical distancing season. The sharp cheddar cheese in this recipe adds a necessary tang and salty kick. I have added less substitutions in this recipe, but that does not mean you shouldn’t use your creativity!
APPLE CHEDDAR HAND PIE RECIPE (MAKES 8 POP-TART SIZED PIES)
2.5 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and levelled, plus additional for rolling out the dough (experiment with substituting small amounts of whole wheat or rye flour here for added texture and flavour)
½ cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
½ cup cold, vegetable shortening, cut into ½ inch cubes
¾ cup sharp, old cheddar cheese (I used Millbank Cheese’s 2 year old white cheddar)
2 tsp kosher salt
1.5 tbsp granulated sugar
¼ cup – ½ cup ice water
1 egg, beaten for egg wash
2 tbsp coarse sugar for sprinkling
1 cup homemade apple butter (any apple butter will be suitable here)
2 apples, peeled chopped into ½ inch cubes (I used tart Spartan apples)
Zest of ½ lemon
1 heaping tbsp white miso (optional but highly recommended)
¼ cup brown sugar (more or less, add to your preference and adjust to suit the apples)
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp clove
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground coriander
2 cracks black pepper
Pinch of salt
Measure flour, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl. With a pastry cutter, fork or cold hands, cut butter and shortening into the flour. Work quickly until the mixture takes on a mealy texture. Mix in the cheddar cheese. Then, one tablespoon at a time, add the ice water, working it into the dough only until it comes together and is hydrated. The dough shouldn’t crack, but also should not stick to your hands. Separate pasty into two equal pieces, form into a rectangle, cover in saran wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
Meanwhile, in one bowl mix together apple butter, miso and lemon zest. In a pot over medium-low heat, add apples and sweat until they begin to release some of their moisture. Then add sugar and spices, mixing well to combine. Cook for 5-10 minutes until the apples are slightly softened and the spices have lost their chalky texture. Mix apples with apple butter/miso mixture and set aside to cool.
Remove pastry from the fridge. Roll into long rectangles (approx 4 x 20 inches). Trim each rectangle into 8 smaller rectangles, all the same size. I find using a pizza cutter is helpful here. Place on two sheet pans and put back in the fridge for 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can use a ring cutter to make a circle or semicircle pies.
Once the filling has cooled to room temperature, remove the pastry from the fridge. Cut two diagonal slits in the centre of 8 of the pastry rectangles. These will be the tops that allow the steam to vent. Brush along the edges of one bottom rectangle with egg wash, fill the centre for 1.5 – 2tbsp of apple filling, top with a top pastry and seal with a fork. You can trim the edges of the hand pie here for a more uniform look if you wish.
Repeat these steps for the remainder of the pies. Place back into the fridge for 20 minutes while your oven preheats to 375 degrees F. Alternatively, you can cover the pies overnight and bake them the next day. To bake, brush the tops of the pies with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops are nice and golden!
Taylor Devalk is a trained chef and baker. Check out her food blogging for more tips and recipes on Instagram @taydevalk.