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German apple cake with cream cheese frosting. (Credit: John Ross)

German apple cake with cream cheese frosting. (Credit: John Ross)
German apple cake with cream cheese frosting. (Credit: John Ross)

Apples appeared in the Kazakhstan mountains before recorded history and migrated from Asia to Europe thousands of years ago. Apple seeds landed in Jamestown with the Pilgrims in 1607. They grew into apple trees that produced a sour apple that was used for cider. Slightly fermented cider was the drink of choice for settlers, as it was safer to drink than contaminated water. The apple spread to all of the United States and is now the second most consumed fruit next to the banana.

The apple is a mainstay of the fall harvest on the North Fork, with many varieties that are good for eating and cooking. They also contribute to our fun and education as children learn how to pick them and all of us enjoy the wonderful aroma that permeates the air in the fall. Here are some recipes for this delicious and healthy fruit:

Apple Pie
Note: This recipe was adapted from a recipe in “The American Test Kitchen Cooking School” cookbook. It does two unusual things to the traditional apple pie recipe: It incorporates vodka into the pie crust and it partially cooks the apples before adding them to the pie. The vodka makes the crust more elastic and easier to handle while the alcohol cooks off in the oven. The blanched apples reduce shrinking and add flavor.

To make the dough, measure 2 1/2 cups flour into a bowl and whisk in 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon salt.

Cut 1 1/2 sticks of butter into quarter-inch pieces and place in the freezer along with 1/2 cup shortening. When they are well chilled, add them to the flour mixture and cut them in with a pastry blender until they are coated with flour and reduced to small pieces. Sprinkle 1/4 cup chilled vodka and 1/4 cup ice water over the mixture and work it into a dough with a dinner fork.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and form it into 2 balls. Knead each just enough to hold together and flatten into a disc. Wrap each disk in plastic film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Peel, core and slice 4 large Mutsu apples and 5 medium-sized Jonagold apples and place them in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, the zest and juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the apples and toss them together.

Heat a saucepan and add the apple mixture. Cover and cook on medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Drain the cooked apples through a colander, reserving the juice.

Roll out the bottom crust and place in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Add the drained apples and 1/4 cup of the reserved juice. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon flour over the apples and dot with 1 tablespoon butter.

Roll out the top crust and place it on top of the pie. Crimp the edges and cut slits in the top.

Beat 1 egg white and thin it with 1 teaspoon water. Brush this on the pie and sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over the crust.

Place in a 425-degree oven and cook for 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and continue cooking for another 25 minutes, or until the pie is golden brown and the juices are bubbling. Remove and let cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before serving.

Apfel Kuchen (German Apple Cake)
Peel, core and chop 4 large Mutsu apples into 3/4-inch pieces (about 4 cups). Place them in a bowl with the zest and juice of 1 lemon and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together 3 eggs, 2 cups sugar, 1 cup canola oil and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, combine 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture with a spoon until well combined.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the apples, 3/4 cup chopped walnuts and 3/4 cup dried cranberries.

Line a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with parchment paper and fill with the cake batter. Place in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle. Let cool on a rack for 1 hour before frosting.

For the frosting, place 8 ounces cream cheese and 2 ounces butter in the mixing bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat until smooth. Add 2 cups confectioner’s sugar and beat at high speed until light and fluffy.

Apple Dumplings
To make the pastry, combine 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt. Add 4 ounces cold butter, cut into small pieces, and cut them into the flour with a pastry blender. Add 3/4 cup cold milk and stir with a dinner fork to make a dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand to form a smooth ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make a glaze by placing 1 cup water, 1 cup pure maple syrup and 1/2 cup dark rum in a small saucepan. Season with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove the cores from (but do not peel) 6 small Macoun apples. Cut a small slice off the bottom so that they stand up straight.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to measure 18 by 12 inches. Cut the pastry into 6 equal squares.

Put a small piece of cold butter and a teaspoon of sugar in the cavity of each apple. Lay a square of pastry over each apple and press the ends together at the bottom of the apple.

Grease a baking pan with butter and stand the apples in the pan so they don’t touch each other. Ladle the glaze over the apples and place the pan in a 425-degree oven for 15 minutes.

Baste the apples with the glaze and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes. The pastry will be golden brown and the syrup at the bottom will begin to thicken. Remove and cool before serving.

Caramelized Applesauce
Peel, core and cut 6 Jonagold apples into 1-inch pieces. Toss them with 1/4 cup brown sugar.

Heat a large sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons butter. Add the apples and cook at high heat, tossing them around, until they begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes.Reduce the heat and add 1 tablespoon cider vinegar and 1/2 cup fresh apple cider. Season with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and a dash of salt. Simmer for 10 minutes and mash with a potato masher.

Serve warm or cold.

John Ross