What’s local right now? What isn’t? The service that delivers produce to us is even showing locally grown okra on its site. That used to be unheard of north of the Mason-Dixon line, let alone the 49th parallel. For a few brief weeks, all sorts of fruits and vegetables are local.
Most local of all are the apples falling off the tree in our backyard. They’re green, not because they’re unripe, but because they’re Gravensteins. Luther Burbank – “The Wizard of Horticulture” — once said, “It has often been said that if the Gravenstein could be had throughout the year, no other apple need be grown.”
But it can’t be had throughout the year because it doesn’t keep well. July and August are about its only season. So most Gravensteins are grown in private gardens and orchards, and don’t get sent to market, though occasionally you can find them in stores.
If you’ve got apples dropping from a tree on your property, it’s likely many of them are too small to bother peeling. Since you can’t necessarily eat all of them either, what can you do? If you own a food mill (pictured) you can make your own applesauce without peeling, cutting up, or even taking the stems off the apples. Just wash them, boil them for about 10 minutes till they’re very soft (the peels on some of them will be splitting), and drain. Then load a couple into the food mill and turn the handle so that the apples are pressed against the metal mesh. It’ll squeeze out the soft parts without letting the peels and seeds through. Keep a bowl under the mill. What falls into it is better applesauce — thicker, more flavorful — than you can buy. (Which makes up for the fact that a large soup pot of apples makes only about a can’s worth of applesauce.)
Here’s another simple dish that works with any size apples and makes for a quick, tasty from-scratch dessert:
- sugar (brown is good)*
- Wash the apples and cut out the cores. I’ve found a grapefruit spoon, with a serrated edge, is handy for that. Fill up the core space with the other ingredients. Put the apples in a baking pan that will hold them all close together — don’t leave a lot of space for them to fall over. Put a little hot water in the bottom of the pan and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes for regular size apples, less for smaller.
- The apples from your tree may not be as big or as long-lasting as the ones at the store, but they’re still full of goodness.
- *Add butter and sugar depending on sweet and indulgent you’d like the apples to be.