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Apples

Traditional Apple Pie. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Election Day is next Tuesday and it brings with it political polarity the likes of which we’ve never seen until recently. Nobody seems to agree about anything anymore, and most people dare not bring up the subject of politics, lest it bring a shouting match, a détente among friends or family members or worse, the end of a formerly close relationship. Red or blue, Democrat or Republican, we are fortunate enough to have Election Day, an institution as American as, well, apple pie. In its honor I’ve decided to present three different apple pie candidates. You choose the one you think will be best.

Basic Pie Crust 

YIELD: Makes two 8- or 9-inch pie crusts.

INGREDIENTS: 

21/4 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup solid shortening

4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the flour and salt. With two table knives or a pastry cutter, work the shortening into the flour mixture until flour-coated particles are the size of peas. Sprinkle ice water, one tablespoon at a time, into mixture until it is completely moistened and all dry ingredients have been incorporated. Divide dough in half; shape each half into a disc; lay between two large sheets of waxed paper on a floured surface, and with a rolling pin, roll out a crust approximately 10 inches in diameter. Carefully transfer to pie plate by inverting waxed paper and peeling it off. Use any torn parts to patch irregularities in crust.

Traditional Apple Pie

Traditional Apple Pie

YIELD: Makes one 9-inch pie.

INGREDIENTS: 

Two 9-inch pie crusts, each crust rolled out to 10-12 inches

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1½ tablespoons cornstarch

7 cups pared sliced firm tart apples such as Granny Smith, Winesap or Jonathan

1½ tablespoons unsalted butter

2 to 3 tablespoons milk 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. In a large bowl combine sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and cornstarch; add apples and toss to coat evenly with dry mixture. Letting edge drape over rim of 9-inch pie plate, line it with one crust. Heap apple mixture evenly over crust; dot with butter. Top with second crust; seal crusts by pinching edges of both crusts together and pressing them down on pie plate rim with fingers or a fork; flute edge. Cut slits in top crust, then brush with milk. Bake until crust is golden and apples are soft, about 50 to 60 minutes. If edge of crust starts to get too brown, cover with strips of aluminum foil. 

Deep Dish Apple Pie

Deep Dish Apple Pie

YIELD: Makes one pie.

INGREDIENTS: 

Nonstick cooking spray

6 cups tart, firm apples such as Granny Smith, Greening, Winesap or Jonathan

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup sugar

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Small pinch of salt

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pie crusts for 9-inch pie, rolled out 1⁄₈ inch thick

2 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. Spray sides and bottom of 10×6×2-inch baking dish. In large bowl thoroughly combine all ingredients except butter. Transfer to baking dish; spread evenly. Dot with butter and top with pastry crust; with small sharp knife, make a few slits in crust, then brush with milk. Bake until crust is golden and apples are soft, about 40 minutes. 

Apple Crumb Pie

Apple Crumb Pie

YIELD: Makes one pie.

INGREDIENTS: 

Pie crust for 9-inch pie

Filling for traditional apple pie, above

½ cup unsalted butter

½ cup brown sugar

1 cup flour

Pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line pie plate with crust and seal edges against rim. Put apple mixture into crust. In medium bowl combine butter, sugar and flour and salt; mix until crumbly. Spread evenly over apple mixture. Bake 50 minutes, until topping starts to crisp and apples are soft.

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Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Ginger Gold, no matter which apple catches your fancy, all were available to bite on as the nonprofit group Preservation Long Island, Homestead Arts and Benner’s Farm hosted the 29th annual Long Island Apple Festival Sunday, Sept. 30, at Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket.

Throughout the day, volunteers showcased how apples were used in colonial times for making applesauce, pies or cider, stuff that a man dressed as Johnny Appleseed said was “so good it will make your tongue slap your eyeballs.”

The event also included live folk music, hayrides, pony rides, games for kids, tours of the historical Sherwood-Jayne House and an apple pie baking contest.

Funds from the event went to Preservation Long Island to continue its efforts to maintain historical places like the Sherwood-Jayne property, among others.

The Huntington Historical Society hosted it’s annual Apple Festival at the Kissam House on Park Avenue in Huntington this past Sunday, Oct. 16. Residents enjoyed hayrides, scarecrow making, bobbing for apples, militia demonstrations and more.

No Bake Peanut Butter Bars

Here are some delicious quick desserts when you just have a craving for something sweet.

No Bake Peanut Butter Bars

YIELD: 16 bars

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup salted butter, melted

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 8 full sheets)

1 cup powdered sugar

3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (not natural style)

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS: Line a 8-by-8 or 9-by-9 square baking pan with aluminum foil. Set aside. In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, and powdered sugar together until combined. Stir in 3/4 cup of peanut butter. Spread into prepared baking pan. In a small bowl, microwave 2 tablespoons of peanut butter with the chocolate chips until melted. Stir until smooth. Spread over peanut butter layer. Chill until completely firm, at least 3 hours. Allow to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting. Bars stay fresh for 5 to 7 days stored in the refrigerator. Serve chilled. (Setting them out for a few hours at room temperature for serving is OK.) Bars can be frozen up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Two Minute Apple Tart
Two Minute Apple Tart

Two-Minute Apple Tart

YIELD: Serves 8

INGREDIENTS:

1 refrigerated ready-to-use pie crust

1 pound apples, cored and sliced

2 tablespoons cold butter

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oven to 425 F. Remove pie crust from refrigerator and warm to room temperature, about 15 to 20 minutes. Unroll crust and place it on large baking sheet. Arrange sliced apples on crust, leaving about two inches of space around edge. Chop cold butter into small bits and scatter over apples. Mix sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over apples. Fold two-inch section of open pie crust over apples — this will not cover apples, but contain them inside crust. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until crust is golden brown and apples are just soft.

Easy Plum Tart
Easy Plum Tart

Easy Plum Tart

YIELD: Serves 10

INGREDIENTS:

¾ cup canned almond pastry filling

1 refrigerated premade pie crust

4 medium plums, sliced

DIRECTIONS: Spread canned almond pastry filling on pie crust (rolled out to 12 inches on parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet), leaving 2-inch border; top with plums, fold in edges, and bake at 400 F for 30 to 35 minutes or until crust is golden and filling is bubbling.

 

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Peaches grow so easily on Long Island, this volunteer has thrived for years. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

One of the nice things about gardening on Long Island is our very acidic soil. Did I say that was one of the nice things? Yes, actually, if you are fond of certain fruits.

Soil pH measures how acidic or alkaline your soil is. The scale ranges from 0 to 14 with 7 being neutral. Below 7 is considered acidic with 4.5 to 5 being very strongly acidic. Much of mine tests out in this range. Above 7 is alkaline. How acidic or alkaline soil is determines how certain needed nutrients are taken up by different plants.

If your soil is very acidic, in the 4.5 to 5.5 range, then blueberries top the list. Blueberries are tasty and considered a nutrition powerhouse filled with phytonutrients and high in fiber. Blueberry bushes come in a number of varieties including high bush (tall) and low bush (shorter). The white spring flowers give way to the berries in summer. To prolong the picking season, select several varieties that range in maturity date from early to medium to late. Yes, consider netting as the berries begin to ripen since birds do love them, too.

Apple trees do well in Long Island’s soil, even down to a pH of 5.0. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Apple trees do well in Long Island’s soil, even down to a pH of 5.0. Photo by Ellen Barcel

In addition to the wonderful fruit they yield, the plants make a great living hedge. Since blueberry bushes are deciduous, the living hedge does not provide much screening in winter.

Bilberry and cranberry also do well in this very acidic range, 4.5 to 5. Cranberries were once raised commercially on Long Island. Cranberry Bog Preserve in Riverhead is located where this commercial operation was in business from the late 1890s to the 1930s. Local women were employed to harvest the berries. If you decide to try to raise cranberries, remember that lots of water is needed.

Other fruits that do well in acidic soil include rhubarb (5.5 to 6), raspberries (5.5 to 6.2), wineberries, which are an invasive variety of raspberries from Asia, and strawberries (5.5 to 6.5).

A plant that may need some lime is the grape vine. While it does well in a variety of soil conditions, the ideal soil pH is 5.5 to 6.8, lower for American vines, higher for some of the imports. If you soil is below the 5.5, then add lime. Different varieties of grapes do better in different soil pH levels, so read the tag that comes with your plants or do a bit a research on the specific variety you have selected.  Like most of the fruits mentioned above, grapes prefer a well-drained soil.

When it comes to fruit trees, the apple does very well in acidic soil, growing well even down to 5.0, which is considered strongly acidic.  Dwarf and semidwarf varieties mean that the home gardener can grow one or more even on a small piece of property and can easily harvest the fruit come fall.

Peaches do well in pH 6.5 (slightly acidic). If your soil is very acidic, you may need to add some lime. Two trees that “volunteered” in my yard are filled with beautiful pink flowers, which is why I keep the trees since the peaches themselves aren’t really great.

Another tree that yields fruit and does well on Long Island is the mulberry, pH range 5.5 to 6.5, moderately acidic. There are some negatives to the mulberry tree, however. It’s a “messy” tree in that the fruit and juice can easily stain anything with which they come in contact. And large limbs can easily break off from the tree. So, while it easily grows here, think about the negatives versus the positives before planting it.

All in all, many different varieties of fruit do well here in Long Island’s acidic soil. Remember to add fertilizer to you soil. Yes, compost is ideal, but if you prefer chemical fertilizers, read the package carefully to make sure it is formulated to help the fruits you are growing. Always follow manufacturer’s directions.

Also remember, that if you do need to add lime, depending on the variety it can take over a year or more for the lime to break down in the soil and be available for your plants to use. Again, read the package carefully.

So plant your favorite fruit tree or bush, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.