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An Apple a Day

Leslie Robinson
From: New Beginnings, Vol. 29 No. 4, 2009, pp. 44-45

The well known maxim "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" reminds us of the health benefits of eating simple, fresh fruit. Apples contain vitamin C, which is good for the immune system and prevents tooth decay as well. The fruit is rich in flavonoids, known for their antioxidant activity, which plays a role in the prevention of heart disease and cancers. It contains phytonutrients, which prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Many of us remember taking apples to school as a snack or in our lunch boxes and the childhood memory of mother baking apple pie establishes the apple as a ubiquitous comfort food. Apples are plentiful and inexpensive, especially at harvest time, and they are tremendously versatile.

There are thousands of commercially grown varieties of apple cultivated in the world, which accounts in part for their tremendous versatility. Sweet, crisp apples such as the Red Delicious or the Gala are excellent eaten raw and in salads. Sweet tender varieties, such as the Golden Delicious or slightly tart, firm apples, such as the Newtown Pippin are good in pies. Sweet-tart, crisp apples, such as the Gravenstein, make wonderful apple sauce; and the slightly tart and firm Rome Beauty is an excellent apple for baking whole. There are many apples that are good for all sorts of recipes, including the Granny Smith, the Jonathan, and the Jonagold.

Find out which varieties are grown locally and you can both support local farmers and protect the environment by buying apples close to where they are grown, as well as enjoying local flavors. At harvest time apple picking is a popular and enjoyable family activity. What could be better than picking red apples on a crisp autumn day, followed by a delicious hot apple cider?

Apples are not just for dessert. Consider incorporating apples in recipes where you might not expect to find them. They are a great ingredient in chutneys, curries, savory salads and coleslaws, stuffings for poultry, casseroles, and soups. Don't be afraid to experiment with unusual combinations of flavors. Apple makes a great complement to sausage meat, nuts, ginger, beets, or cheddar cheese. You can make apple gravy by roasting peeled wedges of apple along with chunks of celery, carrots, and onions with turkey or chicken. When the vegetables are done, transfer the roasting pan with the apples and vegetables to the stove top, add some apple cider and stock and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. You can add some dry white wine too if you like. Blend with a hand blender, adding extra stock if the sauce is too thick.

Of course there are many wonderful ways to use apples in desserts, too. You don't need an ice cream maker to make apple ice cream. Peel, core, and chop three medium sized, sweet apples and cook with two tablespoons of lemon juice and a third of a cup (3 oz or 75g) of sugar, cover for five minutes until soft. Beat in a pinch of cinnamon, and two teaspoons of red currant jelly, and leave to cool. Whip 300ml (10 fl oz) of whipping cream until peaks form, then fold into the cooled apple mixture. Freeze in a plastic container, stir after the first 30 minutes. Serve over apple pie or garnished with wedges of sweet apples. Applesauce can serve as a great ingredient for baking moist muffins, sweet breads, and cakes. See the recipe below for applesauce muffins and be creative in making additions.

For an easy mess-free crust for that favorite apple pie, here's the method I learned from Whole Foods for the Whole Family, La Leche League International's cookbook. Make your pie crust in a food processor by first blending a cup and a quarter of whole wheat pastry flour with half a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of wheat germ. Add seven tablespoons of butter, cut into pieces, and process until the mixture is evenly coarse. Then add the yolk of an egg while the processor is running, followed by about two tablespoons of ice cold water until a ball of dough forms on the blade.

So stay healthy and enjoy the wonderful versatility of the apple at any meal or just as a juicy snack.

Spicy Chutney

6 apples
3 medium onions
3 cups (750 ml) cider vinegar
1 cup (750 ml) raisins
5 cloves garlic
2 tsp (10 ml) hot red pepper flakes
a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated or 2 tsp (10 ml) ground ginger
1 ½ lb (750 g) chopped dates

Peel and core the apples. Dice the apples and onions. Place in a pan with the vinegar, raisins, garlic, and spices. Bring to the boil, stirring frequently, then simmer for about 20 minutes until tender. Add dates. Continue to simmer for a further 45 minutes until thick, stirring frequently. Spoon into canning jars, seal, and process in a boiling canner for ten minutes. (Otherwise it can be stored in refrigerator for up to a month.)
 

Curried Carrot Apple Soup

8 medium carrots, peeled, and diced
2 medium tart apples, peeled, and diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 medium potato, peeled, and diced
Enough vegetable stock to cover generously
1 tsp (5ml) ground ginger
1 tsp (5 ml) curry powder
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large pan. Bring to the boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 35 minutes. Remove bay leaf and blend until smooth with a hand blender.
 

Applesauce Muffins

1/3 cup (80 ml) vegetable oil
½ cup (100 g) brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup (240 ml) applesauce
1 ¾ cups (300 g) whole wheat flour
½ tsp (2.5 ml) salt
1 tsp (5ml) baking soda
¼ cup (60 ml) hot water

Mix oil and honey. Beat in eggs. Add applesauce and mix well. Blend together the dry ingredients and add alternately with hot water mixing until smooth between additions. Spoon into muffin pans (2/3 full) and bake at 325°F (160°C) for 25–30 minutes.

For variations add cinnamon and raisins, dried cranberries, blueberries, or chopped nuts.

 

Johnson, R. Whole Foods for the Whole Family. LLLI, 1993. Available from http://store.llli.org/public/product/131

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