Grit Blogs > Confessions of a Cracked Egg

It's Apple Time in Tennessee!

Suzanne HeadshotI always get excited when our first apples arrive. It signals the beginning of the end of summer. Soon, fall will arrive and the leaves will be ablaze in a rainbow of colors. With this comes cooler weather, corn mazes, bonfires and hay rides. There is nothing I enjoy more than to walk into our home to the scent of apple everywhere! Apple butter, apple sauce, apple cookies, apple fritters, there is just no end to what you can do with apples!

For the past few years we have purchased apples by the bushel from a family friend. We started with a single bushel and as our family has grown, so has our apple purchase. Last year we did 3 bushels, and this year we will do at least that and maybe more. Our favorite apple is the honey crisp. They are large, juicy and sweet. So sweet in fact that I am able to cook and can with much less sugar than with other varieties we have tried making it both cheaper and healthier for us.

We have put up our first run of apples for the year, and are awaiting our next one in the coming weeks. So now is the perfect time to sit down and share some of our family's favorite ways to eat apples! This year, I was lucky to have two little apple helpers. Macey decided it was her job to take the apples from the drainer and sort them on the table for me.

Macey sorting apples  

Well, the temptation was just to much for little brother. William soon joined the apple party. Only, he wasn’t as much into sorting the apples as he was in eating them!

Macey and William with Apples 

Now, regardless of what you decide to do with your apples, there are a few staples I must recommend. First, if you are doing any large number of apples you just have to have an apple peeler/corer/slicer! I don’t know how we survived without one, but I wouldn’t take any amount of money for mine! This thing does three steps at once, and tremendously cuts down on your prep time, not to mention the stress on your hands from cutting all those apples. Large bowls, that’s another big one. You need bowls or containers large enough to handle at least 3-4 pounds of cut apples at a time and you need several of them. A good paring knife is handy for cutting off the little pieces your peeler may miss, or for cutting slices off for your helpers to eat! Now, from there other essentials are dependent on what exactly you plan on doing.

Our first project was apple butter, which is the most time consuming of our favorites. Andrew loves apple butter on just about anything, so we have to make lots of it for Daddy! After the apples are washed, peeled, and sliced they usually go straight into a stock pot for cooking. This year we tried a new recipe that cooks over night in the crock pot. Well, I filled up our 6 quart crock pot before bed time and hoped for the best.

Crock Pot Apple Butter  

Now, I must say that for someone with a limited amount of time or knowledge of apple butter this recipe may have been sufficient. However, we were not so impressed. The consistency was just not what you expect from apple butter, even with extra processing and adding liquids it just did not look right or have the right texture and taste. I want my apple butter to be smooth and glossy, but stand on a spoon. It must be well spiced, as this is what makes a good apple butter! Even though this was a disappointment as far as apple butter goes, I think it will make a nice sauce for a pork loin. We'll have to try that later!

So that morning we went back to our traditional stock pot recipe. It has never failed us so far, and has won ribbons in both our previous county’s fair as well as our current hometown. This year, it was a 2nd place red ribbon.

Apple Butter Fair 2011  

Apple Butter 

4 pounds of peeled apples
4 cups of sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves

Combine apples and 1-2 cups of water in a large stock pot. Simmer until apples are soft enough to puree. Be careful not to liquefy!

Add pureed apples, sugar, and spices back to large stock pot. Cook slowly (this will take several hours) until butter stays rounded on a spoon. Be sure to stir frequently to prevent sticking. Place butter in hot jars with 1/4-inch head space. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

If your butter cooks down to much, you can add apple juice (I use sugar free) as needed to get the right consistency. This yields roughly 4 pints.

Macey’s favorite apple treat is an Apple Cinnamon Cookie. This concoction is one I came up with just this year to use up some apples that were beginning to lose their freshness. They turned out rather well, and we have enjoyed them frequently since. It’s a fast, easy treat that the kids will love! A highly recommended tool for these is a cookie/ melon scoop. I use a 1 teaspoon size scoop to make smaller cookies that are just the right size for our kiddo’s!

Apple Cinnamon Cookies 

1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon hot water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 apple – peeled and diced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
sugar (optional)

Combine butter, brown sugar and egg in a mixing bowl. Cream well. Stir in baking soda, water, and vanilla and mix lightly. Add flour, apples and cinnamon and mix well. Scoop cookie dough by the teaspoon and place on a greased baking sheet. Flatten slightly if desired (I usually don’t). Also optional, sprinkle the tops with granulated sugar. Bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes. Remove and cool.

OPTION: Skip the granulated sugar before baking and sprinkle with powdered sugar while cooling.

William also prefers a sweet treat. His favorite apple recipe is apple fritters. Years ago we went to a wonderful little restaurant in Pigeon Forge, TN called the Apple Barn. They had the most delicious apple fritters they served with apple butter! We have tried replicating their recipe, and although we can’t manage an exact copy we have found one that we like. William could eat these for every meal if we let him. I also make these with a scoop, which makes them so much easier and faster even though they are not in the “traditional” fritter shape.

Apple Fritters  

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 egg
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 large apples, finely diced
Confectioner's Sugar to dust

These are really so easy! All you have to do is finely dice your apples, I recommend doing this by hand as a food processor tends to make them too juicy. Then mix all of your ingredients together in a bowl. I use our deep fryer to heat oil to 350 degrees. Once the oil is well heated, I use my trusty cookie dough teaspoon size scoop to drop the dough into the oil one at a time, being careful not to let them touch while raw. Once they are medium to golden brown remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar, and serve with apple butter for dipping.

I enjoy all of these recipes as well, but probably my favorite is just a good old fashioned cinnamon apple sauce. Before canning our own, I was never a fan of store bought apple sauce. It just tasted to bland to me. Since we started canning cinnamon apple sauce with these honey crisp though, I could sit and eat a whole jar! The beauty of the recipe is that it is simple, quick, and easy to alter to suit your needs. We have made it with full sugar, half-sugar, and no sugar at all and it has come out well each time. This has also been a consistent ribbon-winner for us. This year, we won 1st place at our county fair with our cinnamon sugar-free apple sauce. As you can see in the picture, adding cinnamon does make the sauce darker but it did not hurt our chance of winning! Below is the recipe for the half-sugar run.

Apple Sauce Fair 2011  

Cinnamon Apple Sauce 

6 pounds of peeled and sliced apples
3/4 cup sugar
1-2 teaspoon cinnamon (to taste)
water (as needed, to prevent sticking)

Add apples to a large stock pot and cook until softened. If necessary, add a few tablespoons of water to your pot to prevent the apples from sticking. Puree apples making sure to thoroughly break up any large pieces but also careful not to liquefy. Return apples to stock pot and add sugar and cinnamon. Bring sauce to a boil, and fill jars. Process pints and quarts for 20 minutes in a boiling water canner.

HINT: For both apple sauce and apple butter I leave the apples in the pot and use a hand-held mini mixer to puree. It’s quick, clean, and doesn’t dirty any more bowls! We also use this little mixer to make our own baby foods. Truly a must have in my opinion! Ours came with attachments to puree, blend drinks, and whisk. One of my favorite kitchen tools!

Now, processing all of these apples leaves a lot of left over apple pieces. Peels, cores and other little pieces are all collected in a 5 gallon bucket. When the bucket is full, it goes out to the pigs. The kids have always liked the book “Pigs Love Potatoes.” Let me tell you, while that may be true, pigs love apples too!

Pigs love Apples  

Pigs Eating Apples 

So while the pigs chow down on apples, we’re inside processing jars. One bushel of apples yields quit a bit of stuff. We probably ate a dozen or so from the box, made two batches of Macey’s cookies and a run of apple fritters, and had 6 quarts and 1 pint of apple sauce, and 10 pints and 4 half-pints of apple butter. It’s just the beginning of apple season, so we have lots more apple sauce, apple butter, dehydrated apple chips, pies, cookies, and cakes left to do! And then … it’ll be pumpkin time!

Canned Apples  

suzanne cox
10/30/2011 8:29:51 PM

Cider is definitely on our list of new things to try next year! We'll have to do a follow-up then to let you know how it turns out!

charlie greene
10/8/2011 1:10:14 PM

What a great blog......Can't wait until you start to squeze a few and find out what your mix will be for the cider...Thanks, I really enjoyed your column!

suzanne cox
9/20/2011 1:33:53 AM

Ross, your red hot cinnamon apples sound much like our "Cinnamon Ring" pickles. They are made with red hot candies. And those little pies of PA Gardner's are also a favorite of ours! Here in TN they are simply called fried apple pies, though they can be fried or baked. We mostly snack on our dried apples, but do use them for some pies and cakes occasionally. Joan, would you be willing to share your recipe for the caramel apple jam? That sounds very interesting, and I would like to find a good jam recipe. I've not done so well with jams and jellies in the past, but hope to get better at it in the future!

ross fletcher
9/18/2011 3:31:55 AM

Just finished my apple canning for the year with some red hot - cinnamon apples and apples in light syrup. Went a bit overboard last year so still have plenty of sauce and some butter (that my nephews don't know about). I spice some of my butter with cinnamon, nutmeg, clove etc. i gave a jar of the spiced variety to my audiologist, who's the daughter of our local orchard owner, and she declared better than they sell (Amish made) !

pa gardner
9/17/2011 12:13:48 AM

Mmmmm! Making me hungry! I just bought apples for my first try at making "Schnitz" otherwise known as dried apple slices. 'Round my part of the country they are especially used for making an applebutter-like filling for "Half-moon pies." Schnitz can also be used in a pork/ham dish with dumplings. I've not made either of those dishes myself, but I've eaten a quantity of the moon-pies! (Only one at a time though!) Local Amish make them for sale and lots of occasions, but they are most handy for packing in lunch pails. Generally they are a semi-circle about 4-6" on the straight side, about 1/2" to 1" thick. The rich, sweet, moist, brown filling is contained in a pie-pastry-like dough, that can be flakey, but more sturdy than regular pies. Wrapped in plastic wrap they keep for several days & can be made with peach, cherry, blueberry, raisin, and other fruit-based fillings too. A great take-along snack!! In my family, a favorite apple dish is one my grandmother created called Apple Pudding. In the tradition of her English-Welsh heritage, this was not a "pudding" as much as a "puddin'"...a cake-like dessert. A simple, not-to-sweet, from scratch, cake batter is spread thinly in a pan, topped with sliced apples and maybe a sprinkling of sugar, then topped with more of the cake batter. An apple variety with a little tartness is my favorite to contrast with the hot sweet, rich, buttery sauce made with butter, sugar, egg and boiling water over a double boiler. Mmmm, hmmm!

9/16/2011 4:59:54 PM

I love apple time as well! I make quarts of apple juice and applesauce every year. This year I'm trying apple pie jam as well as the caramel apple jam that I made last year. Yum!

suzanne cox
9/14/2011 11:28:09 AM

Our second round of apples is coming on Friday! Making more apple sauce, doing some dehydrated apple chips, and maybe some pie filling this time. May have to do a follow up article on apples. Andrew thinks I should have included our recipe for Fruity Chicken Salad and one for Baked Beans (yes, with apples in it!) in this one, so may throw those in the next one. Also, I'm looking for a traditional, from scratch, apple stack cake recipe made with dried apples. I've tried several this summer trying to replicate what I remember as a child, but just can't find the right one. Can anyone help?

suzanne cox
9/13/2011 1:05:10 PM

If anyone would like to follow our day to day happenings, just look for "Ans Farms" on Facebook! We post new pictures and events there pretty frequently. It's also nice to be able to post on my possible blog topics and get feedback on there. :)

phillip whisnant
9/13/2011 10:07:15 AM

All this talk about apple butter, fritters, and cookies really makes me hungary. It's great that your kids are involved in the process of your family preserving food from your farm and other local fruit and produce growers. Too many kids grow up today without a clue of where their food comes from other than the grocery store. When you grow and make it yourself you know exactly what you are fueling your body with. I look forward to seeing what you do with pumkins.

suzanne cox
9/9/2011 10:53:29 PM

Do you want to hear something truly un-American? I don't like apple pie! Just about anything else made from apples I enjoy, and the pies are definitely Andrew's favorite. I've just never really had a taste for them. I could eat a whole cherry or strawberry pie though! Now, the apple cider I love! Nothing better in the fall time then a glass of apple cider! I haven't tried jelly from the peels yet, the pigs might get mad at me if I try that. I have never been very successful at making jams and jellies but my butters (apple, pumpkin, pear) usually turn out well. Jellies are something I would like to try and get better at in the future though.

suzanne cox
9/9/2011 10:53:19 PM

Do you want to hear something truly un-American? I don't like apple pie! Just about anything else made from apples I enjoy, and the pies are definitely Andrew's favorite. I've just never really had a taste for them. I could eat a whole cherry or strawberry pie though! Now, the apple cider I love! Nothing better in the fall time then a glass of apple cider! I haven't tried jelly from the peels yet, the pigs might get mad at me if I try that. I have never been very successful at making jams and jellies but my butters (apple, pumpkin, pear) usually turn out well. Jellies are something I would like to try and get better at in the future though.

nebraska dave
9/9/2011 8:14:09 PM

Suzanne, you certainly have been apple busy. It's just a little longer before our apple orchards start producing the apples for the year. It always a field trip for the grade school kids to go to the apple orchard and pick their own apples to take home. My favorite apple recipe is of course apple pie but the cider comes in a close second. I'm not to the point of processing apples yet but maybe some time in the future it could be a thing to do. I've heard the peels from the apples are great to make jelly. It just doesn't seem that fall should be so close. It wasn't that long ago that I was doing the count down to Spring. Now it's almost the beginning of fall. Where did the summer go? Have a great Apple preserving season day.