Classic Taste of fall
by Marlene Osteen
If it’s true that few things in life carry more emotional weight and symbolism than food, than may it also be true that perhaps no single food can trigger reminiscence like the apple?
Nostalgia for the apple, the food of our youth, evokes memories from early Bible studies to a treat for the teacher, advice from the dentist or a family outing to an orchard. I’ve been fond of apples for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until on a trip here, more than a decade ago that I was truly beguiled. Then, visiting the Cashier Farmers Market I discovered the Arkansas Black – crisp and tart and sweet like a fine well-aged Chardonnay wine.
Sure, visitors to Western North Carolina in October are here for our spectacular foliage display, but no less exuberant and varied are our apples.
This time of year, the orchards are producing abundant fruit, and a drive along the scenic Blue Ridge Highway easily overwhelms the senses. There are powerful aromas and showy displays, while local school kids and retired folks alike busily pluck bushels of fruit from the trees.
At our markets and produce stands the tables groan with dozens of apples, sourced from nearby counties. August Produce on the Franklin Road begins selling Jonagolds and Honey Crisps in August and by October there are more than 15 on display.
At the Cashiers Farmer Market in Highway 64, the baskets on their porch overflow – beginning in late August with the Red Delicious and winding up before they close for the season in October with Fuji, and that favorite of mine, the Arkansas Black.
Most of the apples stocking the shelves come from Henderson County, home to more than 150 orchards (NC ranks seventh in apple production in the US). Happily, one local orchard, the Dendy Orchard on the Goldmine Road in Highlands, returns this year after a two-year hiatus – their operation having been shuttered by a perfect storm of an early freeze, malfunctioning equipment and a diseased crop.
Depending on the month, you can find their harvest of Cortland, Macintosh, Winesap, Mutsu, Rome and Grimes Golden at the Deal Produce Stand in Franklin.
And should there be too many apples in your basket for enjoying one at a time, then I offer this recipe from Louis Osteen’s “Charleston Cuisine” – as sweet and endearing as he was, it’s best made – as Robin Crawford of the Cashiers Farmers Market suggests– with a variety, perhaps Rome, Winesap and Mustu.
Perfect as a side dish with a salty country ham, or as a casual desert after a picnic or barbecue.
2 lbs. Tart Firm Apples
5 tablespoons Butter
1-1/3 cups Sugar
8 Fresh Sage Leaves or ¼ tsp. Rubbed Sage
½ Bay Leaf
Salt to taste
Juice of 1 Lemon
Directions Peel and core and quarter the apples.
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the apples, sugar, sage and bay leaf and stir. Add salt to taste.
Cook the apples over medium heat for about 12 minutes or until tender – they should still hold their shape. Remove the sage leaves and add a few drops of lemon juice.
At this point, you can transfer the apples and their juice to a warm serving dish and serve immediately or cover and refrigerate, rewarming over medium heat when you are ready to use.