More than Pie
Fall's Fruit Harvest Bears a Tasty Treat With Many Versatile Uses
Mention apples and what’s your first thought? Well, pie, naturally. But there are so many other sweet and savory dishes and desserts made with apples. Think about the tarts, applesauce, stewed apples, apple dumplings, baked apples and apple crumble (which, you are correct, is really a type of pie).
And while you may have your favorite type of apple, there are actually more than 100 known varieties, according to the U.S. Apple Association. About 20 are available in Frederick County, thanks to three growers: Catoctin Mountain Orchard, Pryor’s Orchard and Scenic View Orchards. Catoctin offers 13 varieties at varying times from September to February; Pryor’s has 20 varieties; and Scenic View lists four varieties on the orchard’s website.
“We get asked which is sweetest, which is the best,” says Martha Hauer, co-owner of Pryor’s Orchard. “Our answer is, ‘Whatever you prefer,’ whether you’d like a really sweet apple, a medium-sweet or a sweet-tart apple.” One of Hauer’s favorites is Cameo, a sweet tart apple. “They’re crisp, but it’s not a real hard crisp. You can’t believe how they snap off,” she says.
But if sweet apples are your thing, Catoctin has a new variety you may like—Blonde. Pat Black, co-owner with her brother Robert Black, says it’s sweet and crisp like a Golden Delicious, but is ready earlier in the year. “We’re always looking for something new and different,” she says.
Though there are a lot of apples available, none are considered heirloom varieties like some tomatoes. However, Smokehouse apples could be considered an heirloom. Gail Whitbred of Frederick likes to use Smokehouse apples in her applesauce, particularly because they are an unusual color, with green skin and flesh, and stay that color throughout the cooking and bottling process. She has a harder time finding them, but Pryor’s sells them in the fall.
While apples like Cameo and Blonde are great to eat fresh (as are Fuji, Gala and Honey Delicious, Hauer says), they aren’t always ideal cooking apples. With a cooking apple, look for a variety that is a bit more tart. That way you aren’t adding sugar and other sweeteners to already sweet fruit. Plus it adds more dimension to the dish.
However, which apples are best for cooking? Whitbred likes a mix of Granny Smith, McIntosh and Gala apples for her family’s favorite applesauce. She looks for baskets of seconds (apples with slight blemishes, which sell for a little less than regular retail prices). “It makes a darn good applesauce,” she says. Her best applesauce won a blue ribbon at The Great Frederick Fair a few years ago. That one had fresh cranberries and apples in the sauce.
What’s her recipe? Um, a little of this and a little of that. “If you’ve been cooking for 45 years, you know the basics and you keep adding or subtracting as you go along. And taste, taste, taste,” she adds.
Indeed, many of the best apple recipes come down to a little this and a little that.
Tootie Lenhart, Russ Delauter, and Siegi Leonhardt run Trinity United Church of Christ’s kitchen. The Thurmont church is well known for selling some of the best baked goods in Frederick County. The trio gets to work around 4:30 a.m. and continues until 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. just about every day of the year. They (along with a few people who come in to help with peeling and coring apples) make a dizzying amount of apple centered desserts—27,200 last year, including 826 apple pies at Thanksgiving.
The church’s menu includes apple crumb pie, blackberry apple pie, red raspberry apple pie, black raspberry apple pie (Lenhart’s favorite), and the ever-popular apple dumplings. The apple dumplings could arguably be one of the best-selling foods each year at The Great Frederick Fair. Last year about 9,000 apple dumplings brought dimples to faces.
What’s the secret to a great dumpling? Make sure you use a large apple and pour a little sugar and cinnamon with a dollop of butter in the cored-center before you wrap it up in a small pie crust. Then make sure you bake it with a little bit of liquid (a mixture of water, butter, cinnamon and sugar). The liquid will keep the dumpling moist in the oven and spice up the crust.
As for their favorite apple varieties, they buy Rambo, Cortland, Granny Smith, Stayman and Yellow Delicious. Each of the apples keeps its shape while cooking and softens nicely. Lenhart, Delauter and Leonhardt don’t use written recipes
while cooking because they vary some ingredients like sugar, based upon how sweet the apples are.
But you’re unlikely to catch them eating any of the baked goods. “If you taste 20 batches of custard pies, you don’t want to eat them,” Delauter says.