Call me basic, but fall is my favorite time of year. I love the sights, smells, sounds and especially the flavors that arrive as temperatures cool down and sweaters come out. During my first fall in the south as a college student, I traveled up to North Carolina with friends to go apple picking at a local orchard.
I’d never been apple picking before growing up in Ohio (the land of concrete and corn, neither of which are very exciting to pick) and I went again each year while I was in college.
When I ended up settling in South Carolina for good after graduating, I was happy to continue the tradition with my husband.
This year, somehow we came home with over 15lbs of apples. In hindsight, I realized we might have been a little over-zealous on a picking spree for a two-person household.
But possibilities are endless with apples in the kitchen, so it was the perfect excuse to share six of my favorite things to do with apples for fall.
Applesauce. Simple, delicious, and super easy to whip together. I use it in a lot of my baking because it adds moisture and cuts down on fat content. Typically, I’ll make a big batch at once and then measure it into 1/2 cup portions to freeze for later. It’s a great way to use those older apples that have been sitting on your counter for a while and have passed optimal crunchiness (if you’re a texture snob like me and don’t like biting into soft apples).
A lot of applesauce recipes call for added sugar, but I find it unnecessary; apples are full of natural sugars and sweet enough on their own, especially if you’re using a sweeter variety.
- 5-6lbs apples, peeled, cored and sliced into eighths (try sweeter apples, like Honey Crisp, Golden Delicious, Gala or Fuji)
- 1 Cup water
- Juice of half a lemon (or lime, if you’re like me and forget lemons at the grocery store and have to forage the fridge for last week’s salsa ingredients)
- 1 Teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 Teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 Teaspoon ground cloves
- Skip the excess sugar. You’re already sweet enough, my dear.
Throw the apples, juice, and water into a deep pan and bring all the liquid to a boil over a medium-high heat (allow it to heat gradually; don’t just crank the temperature up to high or you may burn your apples). Then lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the apples have thoroughly softened. Stir in your spices and then transfer the whole mixture into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. If you’re planning to freeze it, allow it to cool before measuring it out into your freezing containers.
2. Dehydrated Apples
If you haven’t had dehydrated fruit before, you might wonder what a dehydrated apple tastes like exactly. Have you ever eaten a cereal that has those bits of real, dried fruit in the box (like Special K with strawberries)? If so, then you’ve tried dehydrated fruit. It’s dry, crisp, crunchy and delicious.
I started using a dehydrator this year when I found one at Aldi for $30. I’d heard good things about them, and figured “what the heck?” and tossed it into my cart. Now I’m using it so much I’m not sure how I went without one so long (my husband eats these things quicker than potato chips.) The dehydrating process takes a long while, but it’s kind of like using a crock pot: You set it and forget it until it’s done.
Unlike a crock pot, many dehydrators have automated timers, making them a lazy chef’s dream. Apples take about 16 hours to dehydrate in mine, so I pop them in, set the desired time and temperature and just leave it to do its thing overnight. When it reaches the end of its cycle, the timer beeps and the machine will shut itself off.
Apple Dehydrating Tips:
- I like to peel my apples for extra crispiness (but you can leave peels on too).
- You can core your apples for prettier rings, but so long as you remove all the seeds you can also just leave the center of the core (if you don’t have time to go all Pinterest-fancy).
- Try to keep your slices consistent. If your apple slices are all different thicknesses, they may dehydrate unevenly. I place thicker slices on the bottom trays and thinner ones higher up.
- Keep a bowl with some water and a squeeze lime or lemon juice handy while you’re slicing you apples and just toss your slices into it as you go if you want to keep your apples from browning (it really doesn’t affect the flavor, but if you have picky eaters in your house might help the presentation).
- If you like them extra crisp, slice them thinner let them go a little longer. Like them with a little chew? Cut them a little thicker and pull them out a bit sooner.
- If you’re adding spices, like cinnamon, hold the individual tray over the sink when you dust on your seasonings for easier cleanup.
Don’t have a dehydrator? Not to worry. You can still join in on the scrumptious fun with some apple chips! These will have a different texture and flavor than dehydrated apples. Where dehydrated fruit is crisp and crunchy, apple chips have a chewy, more leathery feel. If you liked fruit roll up treats as a kid, these little guys should be right up your alley.
- 1-2 of your favorite apples
- A dash of cinnamon or apple pie spice
- Non-stick baking spray
Dust your baking sheet with a layer of the non-stick spray and preheat your oven to 200°. While the oven heats, slice up your apples thin and evenly. Thin and even are the key terms here. Too thick and they’re not going to cook through very well and if they are all uneven the thinner chips are going to burn before the thicker ones are done. (If you want to keep them from browning as you slice, toss the slices into a bowl of water and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.) Line the slices up on your baking sheet (I place slightly thicker slices on the outer edge and thinner ones more in the middle) and sprinkle with your spices. Bake for one hour then flip them over and cook another hour and a half. At the end of that time, you can just turn the oven off and leave them in to crisp up a little more as it cools.
4. Apple Pecan Salad
If you haven’t tried crisp, juicy apples in a salad stacked with crunchy pecans and flavorful cheese, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. It’s sweet. It’s salty. It’s nutty and cheesy and magnificent. It belongs on your fork and in your heart.
I like either a very sweet or slightly tart apple in my salads because it packs just the right punch on your taste buds to make the apple shine bring all the other flavors together. If you like a bolder flavor than feta, you can’t go wrong with some good ol’ blue cheese. You can also substitute the walnuts for other favorite nuts (like pecans, almonds or cashews), but for me, the walnut is where it’s at.
- 1 Honey Crisp apple, cored and chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 and 1/2 cups of kale, finely chopped (romaine lettuce works too)
- 1/4 Cup pecans, chopped
- 1-2 Tablespoons craisins
- 1-2 Tablespoons Crumbled feta cheese
- Your favorite light vinaigrette dressing
Toss kale and apple together in a bowl to mix together then top with walnuts, craisins, and feta. Drizzle a little dressing over top and enjoy.
5. Pumpkin-Apple Spice Protein Pancakes
Want a little extra protein at your next brunch bash? Protein pancakes are the way to go and Kodiak Cakes Flapjack Mix has got you covered for your morning dose of gains. I like using their protein-packed mixes for a slightly higher protein content than their original mix and (if I’m really wanting to get cray-cray) will sometimes add an extra scoop of protein powder into my batter.
- 1 Cup Kodiak Cakes Protein Packed Buttermilk Flapjack Mix
- 1/2 Cup water
- 1/2 Cup pumpkin puree
- 1 Teaspoon apple pie spice
- 1 Apple, peeled, cored and chopping
Mix your flapjack mix, pumpkin puree, spice and water together in a bowl (if you like your batter a little thicker, add a little more flapjack mix and if you like it a little smoother you can add a little more water). Once you have your preferred batter consistency, mix half of the apple in your batter. When your pancakes are ready, top with the remaining apple pieces and dig in!
6. Apple Butter
And finally, what fall apple post could be complete without apple butter? Sweet, cinnamony, luxurious apple butter. It’s essentially just a richer, more glorious form of applesauce and I like to make it in the crockpot and slow cook it overnight.
The key to apple butter is developing flavor. Using more than one kind of apple (between 2-4 different types) helps build in those layers. Sweeter or tarter apples are great for apple butter, but it doesn’t hurt to throw one more mild variety in with them. Since apples are already full of so much natural sugar, I’m light-handed adding much processed sugar. This year I’ve been opting for Stevia over traditional sugar to lighten things up a tad. One thing to keep in mind is that apple butter can get very sweet, very quickly, so it never hurts to start out easy with the sugar/sweeteners and add more if needed as you go.
- 6lbs apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
- 1-2 Cups Stevia sweetener
- 1 and 1/4 Teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 Teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 Teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 Teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 Teaspoon salt
Put apples into a large mixing bowl and set aside. Mix Stevia and all seasonings together in a separate bowl and then pour the mixture over the apples, stirring everything together to coat the apples. Put your apples into your crock pot and cook on high for an hour (stirring now and then), then switch temperature to a low heat and allow the apples to cook 10-11 hours. Remove crock pot lid and allow to cook another hour. For a smoother consistency, I like to puree my apple butter when it’s finished. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container. (This stuff also freezes quite well if you’re making a big batch at once.)
There are a couple things that can go awry with apple butter. If your apple butter comes out a little wonky, fear not. We got into this together, we can get out of it together.
Step one: Don’t panic. We can work with this. There are a few things you can add in your apple butter to bring up the acidity levels to help mellow it back out.
- Zest or juice from a lemon (add it gradually, stirring and tasting to make sure you don’t add so much that it starts becoming tart).
- Vinegar, starting with 1/4 cup. If you think it needs a little more mellowing out, add an additional cap full at a time, mixing and tasting as you go.
- More apple butter. If you’re planning to make a larger quantity of apple butter, you can make an additional batch without much (or any) added sweeteners and then just mix it together with your first batch to balance out the sweetness.
This is an easy fix. Just allow it to continue cooking without the lid so the excess liquid can continue evaporating. You can burn apple butter but you really can’t overcook it, so it’s not going to hurt anything to leave it cooking another hour or two if you want to thicken it up.
And there you have it! Six ways and recipes to help you start incorporating apples into your fall routine. Because can anyone really have too many apples in their life?
All writing and images copyright © 2017 Rachel Elise Weems Woods