Not long after I started talking to Braeden, he informed me that his hometown in Pennsylvania is known as the “apple capital.” As a native of Washington state, I quickly contested this designation. Literally (meh, figuratively) everyone has heard of Washington Apples. Who’s heard of apples from the Pennsylvania apple capital? Probably no one. …or so I claimed. After four-odd years of living in Pennsylvania, I’m afraid that I’ve been solidly converted to Adams County apples. Don’t worry Washington, you still hold a special place in my heart, but let’s face it – a girl’s gotta grow up, and the apples here are really, really good. (This doesn’t mean, however, that a little poking fun isn’t in order.)
For the past four months I’ve been working at an orchard and winery that, among other things, grows a lot of apples. Housemate Matt works for the same orchard. Braeden’s sister works for another orchard in the area. Basically, apples are all around. To top it all off, the beginning of October marks the Apple Harvest Festival, rain or shine.
With all these apples floating around, the natural apple dish du jour is an apple pie. As you can imagine from her blackberry pie, my mom makes a mean apple pie. Janessa makes a slightly differently mean apple pie, too, and were I forced to choose between the two, I could not. They are both so good, that whenever my dad is around, at least two apple pies must be made because he will eat half of one for breakfast. True life: my family considers pie an acceptable breakfast food. We also fancy molasses cookies, but that is another post for another day.
However, I’m not going to tickle your tastebuds with apples all sugared and cinnamoned up. Today I present to you the other side of apples – the darker side, some might say. Instead, I give you the savory side of apples:
The past few weeks I’ve made this egg salad (more or less), this curried apple couscous, and a few grilled cheeses with apple slices and dijon mustard spread on the bread (a classic savory apple dish, I must say). I also discovered that when eating a plate of pickled things (beets, cucumbers, carrots, what have you), apple and white cheddar slices serve as a nice foil to all the vinegar. What I present to you now, though, is something else. It’s a savory condiment made from apples, to be spooned and slurped with sausage, pork, even turkey or chicken. Heck, I’ll bet it’s even great with beef. Or, if you don’t eat meat, it would be fantastic as a spread on toast or flatbreads or served as a little somethin’ extra with a roasted winter vegetable like cauliflower or a squash.
I must give credit where credit is due, and tell you that the idea for this apple-y/compote-y/chutney-y idea came from none other than Molly of Orangette, with her recipe for Bratwurst with Creamy Apple Compote. I twisted and tweaked the apple compote a bit to make it into more of a chutney/sauce to be served with, well, everything. I made a batch this morning and stood for literally (and I do mean literally this time) 5 minutes in the kitchen, spooning little bits of the stuff into my mouth. Yum. It has a slight sweetness from the apple, but I don’t add any sugar or even any butter or cream (although these would of course be welcome additions). I know next to nothing about canning, but I just got this book so maybe that’ll tell me if I could somehow can this stuff. Really, it’s that good.
Savory apple sauce
Note: I used a mix of sweeter apple varieties, but you could throw in a tart one or even use just tart apples to create a slightly tarter version of the sauce. I think it’d be just as good, in a different way. The spices/herbs I suggest are of course only suggestions. You could add a little curry and cumin if you wanted to serve it with an Indian twist, or some cumin and chili powder for more of a Mexican one. Experiment to your heart’s content. Oh, and if you happen to be making a meat dish at the same time, a few spoonfuls of meat drippings make a great addition as well. Bacon fat would be lovely too, but I suspect you already knew that one.
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 2 or so medium sized apples, cored and coarsely chopped (and peeled if you want)
- 1/2 cup to 1 cup dry white or red wine (I used a Chardonnay twice and a Pinot Noir another time)
- 2 or 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
- a pinch or two of ground cayenne
- a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped (leaves only), or dried parsley, or dried marjoram
- olive oil
Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan. Cook the onions in olive oil until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the apples and cook until softened, another 5 to 7 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, spices, herbs (if using dried, otherwise add herbs at the end), vinegar, and a half cup of wine. Lower heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more wine if you want more liquid, but I think a half cup is usually good. If you want a chunky sauce leave as is and put in an airtight container. If you want a smoother sauce, mash with a potato masher or back of a fork. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Yield: about 3 cups of sauce.
Also, today is a perfect fall day. Pennsylvania is awfully pretty in the fall.