The other day, Eric said, “Everyone should go to the apple orchard at least once a year. THAT’S how you carpe´ the season.”
For the past few years, we’ve gone to the apple orchard around this time of year with our friends the Johannsens and their four kids. Here’s how it typically goes….We get there, and their boys run off the stored energy of a 45 minute car ride.
Then, we make our way to the actual orchard. The kids bite into about 3 apples apiece, dropping them on the ground, wiping off dirt, and chewing on them again, while we adults get serious about picking apples and try to keep the youngest ones from eating anything rotten.
Inevitably, after filling our apple bags, Sarah and I spend 10 minutes trying to crack each other up with apple poses, and apple butts, while Brad and Eric try to outdo each other in a manly competition to see who can chuck an apple farthest away using only their mouths. Kind of like an olympic discus toss, except with apples…and mouths.
We end the day by eating dinner together at Emma Krumbee’s restaurant, next to the orchard, and watching kids fall asleep on the way home. This year, Sarah told me about baked apples from her family recipe book on the way to the orchard, and I couldn’t get them off my mind. She used the kids’ naptime the following Saturday to teach me how to make them.
If you’re looking for an easy dessert that you can truly make your own, this is it. We used Haralson’s apples, but any good baking apple will do. You just cut the core out of the apples (with a fancy dancy corer if you have one….or by hacking them out with a paring knife like we did). Then, you jam pack the holes with the best parts of baking: butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves, and raisins. Love raisins? Jam more in there. Want to bathe in brown sugar? There’s always room for more. These baked apples will make you love fall more. They are easy. They are forgiving. And you should make them this week. With apples you get at the orchard.
(recipe from my friend Sarah's Grandma Helen )
(yields as many as you want to make)
I'm not putting amounts next to these ingredients because this recipe is that flexible. If I had to guess, each apple got just under a tbsp. of butter, maybe a 1/2 - 1 tbsp. of brown sugar, just a pinch of ground cloves, a tsp. or so of cinnamon, and a 1/2 tbsp. of raisins. The amount of each ingredient that you put in each apple is not even close to crucial. Pack more of what you like most in the apples, and make sure they holes are jam packed.
baking apples (as many as you want)
vanilla ice cream (for serving)
Preheat oven to 350*
Cut the core out of each apple, while keeping the apple whole. We used a paring knife to cut a square around each core...first from the top, then from the bottom. We then used our thumbs to muscle the cut square out of the apple, leaving a hole where the core was. Or, you can use one of one of those corers.
Lightly grease a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. (Feel free to use a smaller pan if you're only making a few apples). Place the apples in, sitting upright. Jam the cored apples with the cinnamon, butter, brown sugar, raisins, and cloves - as tightly as you can, in any ratio combination you like. (Only a pinch of cloves...and I wouldn't overdo it on the butter (no more than 1 tbsp. per apple).
Cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 350* for 45 minutes to an hour or until apples are soft (easily pierced with a fork). Some might split open, and you'll definitely have gooey buttery sugary goodness all over the bottom of the pan. Wonderful.
To serve, put an apple in a bowl with some vanilla ice cream, then drizzle with the melted goodness from the bottom of the pan.
Eat yours and then try not to take bites from the person's bowl sitting next to you.