what to do with 20 lbs. of apples.

As I mentioned in my previous post about pumpkins, we recently traveled about an hour north of San Francisco to catch the last of the apple harvest at a pick-it-yourself ranch up off of the Gravenstein Highway.  We ended up at Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch in Sebastopol, five acres of beautiful trees and lovely fruit.  There were a handful of other visitors to the ranch that day – it was sunny but crisp, we would have brought a picnic lunch if we’d made it up to Sebastopol earlier.  It’s pretty amazing how many apples you can pick at this place.  That’s how we ended up with twenty pounds of apples.

I started packing an apple or two in our lunches every day, but as two weeks passed, I realized I needed to get through these apples quicker!  Here are three ways to use a surplus of apples:  Classic Tarte Tatin, Apple Butter, and an Apple Armagnac Tart.  All the recipes have been Jules-tested and approved.

Tarte Tatin is a classic French dessert that looks so impressive once you flip it out of the pan.  I’ve done tatin the original way, which is to add the butter, sugar, and apples all at once and caramelize everything together, but Deb Perelman’s technique, which involves starting the caramel first, is great so that you don’t end up overcooking your apples into mush (which can happen with certain types of apples).  Jules said, and I quote, “This is the best tarte tatin I’ve ever had in my life.”  What a sweetheart he is, no?  Deb also uses puffed pastry in her version, which you certainly can do, but I like the shortcrust pastry, which is what I used here.
Classic Tarte Tatin (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
5-6 medium apples, peeled and cored, cut into quarters
Juice of half a lemon
6 tablespoons (3 ounces or 85 grams) butter
1 1/3 cup (266 grams) sugar, divided
Short crust pastry, chilled (you can use the pastry from the Quiche Lorraine recipe here)
A heavy 9-inch ovenproof skillet
In a large bowl, toss apples with the lemon juice and 1/3 cup of the sugar. Set aside for 15 minutes; this will help release the apple’s juices, too much of them and the caramel doesn’t thicken enough to cling merrily to the cooked apples.
Melt butter in your skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle in remaining 1 cup sugar and whisk it over the heat until it starts to caramelize, then add the drained apples.  Be sure to keep turning them over so that the caramel is evenly distributed and the apples cook evenly.  The apples will begin to shrink as they cook, so in about 20 to 25 minutes, you should have a nice single layer of apples.
Note:  I got a little panicked here the first time I did this, as the sugar seemed to start to solidify at the bottom, but I realized as the apples release more liquid, it helps to thin out the caramel to the correct consistency.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out your shortcrust pastry to a 9-inch circle and trim if needed. Cut four vents in pastry. Remove skillet from heat again, and arrange pastry round over apples. Tuck it in around the apples for nicer edges later. Bake until the pastry is cooked through and golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Read Deb’s technique on presenting and serving this gorgeous tarte, and the full version of her recipe over at Smitten Kitchen!

For my friend Molly, apple butter conjures up memories of her English grandmother.  This spread is wonderful on plain toast, but I’ve caught Jules eating it by the spoonful when I’m not looking.  Patience is key here – the longer this simmers and cooks down, the more concentrated the flavors become, and the natural pectin in the apples helps to thicken the consistency of the puree.  While one is making apple butter, the entire house fills with an apple-pie sort of aroma that can’t be duplicated by a candle or room spray.  

Apple Butter
4 lbs of good cooking apples
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
Sugar (about 4 cups, see cooking instructions)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice

Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

large Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot
either a VitaMix, chinoise sieve, or food mill
sterilized canning jars (6-8 8-oz. jars with lids)

Cut the apples into quarters, without peeling or coring them, being sure to cut out damaged parts.  Put them into large pot, add the vinegar and water, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cook until apples are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

Measure out the purée and add the sugar and spices.  Ladle apple mixture into your blender and blend until smooth (if you don’t have a blender, you can use a food mill or chinois sieve). Measure resulting puree. Add 1/2 cup of sugar for each cup of apple pulp (or less, if you like your butter less sweet). Stir to dissolve sugar. Add a dash of salt, and the cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, lemon rind and juice. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Cook uncovered in a large, wide, thick-bottomed pot on medium low heat, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Scrape the bottom of the pot while you stir to make sure a crust is not forming at the bottom. Cook until thick and smooth (about 1 to 2 hours). A small bit spooned onto a chilled (in the freezer) plate will be thick, not runny.

Once the purée consistency is to your liking, ladle the hot mixture into sterilized canning jars and continue with regular canning procedure.  You can also just keep some in a sealed container in the refrigerator for immediate use.

Ratzlaff Ranch

If you haven’t already seen Manger, the blog from French author and tv-host Mimi Thorisson, you need to go see it immediately.  She is not only a fantastic cook, but beautiful and charming with an equally beautiful and charming family!  I baked this to use up the last of our apples, but we didn’t have Calvados on hand – instead I substituted Armagnac, another sort of brandy.  See below for Mimi’s feature on Mr. Porter!

Apple Armagnac Tart (adapted from Mimi Thorisson’s Calvados Apple Tart)
5 apples, peeled, cored and sliced into small chunks
1/4 cup/ 60 ml Armagnac
5 tbsp/ 60 g brown sugar (cassonade)
3 egg yolks
1 cup/ 250 ml crème fraîche or sour cream
3 tbsp ground almonds
Additional crème fraîche to serve on the side.

For the pastry:
2 cups/ 250 g plain flour
2/3 cups/ 150 g butter (softened at room temperature)
1/4 cup/ 30 g caster sugar
1/2 cup/ 60 g icing confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup/ 80 g ground almonds
1 egg
A pinch of salt

Chop apples and soak in the calvados (or Armagnac) for 1 hour.

For the complete recipe, please visit Mimi’s blog here and click on the video below for the recipe demonstration.


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fiendishly fond of cooking, SoulCycle, Pilates, green smoothies, and Korean spas.

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