The Idareds are in, so let the baking begin. These late-autumn apples are popping up at most central Pennsylvania fruit and roadside stands about now and are a nice change from mundane Macs: they’re bigger, redder and retain their shape better than the more familiar baking apples available in supermarkets.
Back in the mid-1990s writer Roger Yepsen published Apples, a small, beautifully illustrated book of 90 different apple varieties. I’m trying to get through them all, but some like Pitmason Pineapple, Yellow Bellflower, and Fameuse, an old-fashioned variety used for stocking stuffing at Christmas, have eluded me. About 15 years ago I finally scored some Idareds at my favorite orchard in Lebanon County and have been buying them annually just to make baked apples. These large, finely textured apples are tart and best used for baking or applesauce, and according to page 140 in Yepsen’s book, “uncut, Idared breathes a sweet perfume. The crisp pale yellow-green flesh is juicy, fine-grained, tender, a bit tart and aromatic….” You don’t have to be a Johnny Appleseed type to swoon over his descriptions. He describes each variety like a mouthwatering jewel, which is why I always have my apple radar up and on high alert at this time of the year. I’m lucky to have found an Idared supplier close to home.
But back to apple baking. Since I’ve documented one Old Food flop and left unrecorded a second involving purple cabbage–well, at least it was a colorful failure–I needed something old-timey yet reliable. I followed the directions from Victor Lindlahr, author of the 1940 classic nutrition handbook You Are What You Eat. Lindlahr threw me a curve ball with that cabbage last week, but he did give me delicious results with the blackberry pie this summer, https://oldfoodcooking.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/you-are-what-your-eat-or-i-am-blackberry-pie/ I thought he deserved a third try with this simple apple dessert, and the directions closely match how I would have done it on my own today. I learned from my Mom. And who knows, maybe she learned her technique from Lindlahr.
You Are What You Eat Baked Apples
Victor doesn’t say this but I will. I’ve never baked a Gala or Fuji or Honeycrisp–snacking apples that are the mainstay of many brown bag lunches. I’m no apple expert but baking apples just seem to have better flavor out of the oven Yet I suppose if you want to be an anti-establishment culinary revolutionary you can do what you want. This recipe is for a single serving, and I adjusted the ingredients for four, going a bit lighter with the sugar. Truthfully, I didn’t measure. I’m turning into my Nana.
Core and pare one-inch of skin from the top of apple. Place in baking dish and fill center of each apple with 2 tablespoons sugar (I used brown). If desired, sugar may be mixed with cinnamon or nutmeg, a few raisins or chopped nuts (I used cinnamon and walnuts and dusted nutmeg over top). Maple syrup or honey may replace sugar. Fill bottom of pan with 1/4-inch water; cover and bake in 375-degree oven(I forgot to cover, oops) until apples are soft.
Note: My mother always added a small lump of butter to each apple and I did the same. Also, that water you add before baking? OOOHhh. What a lovely syrup that makes by the end. Spoon some over the apple before serving.