Beth Dooley, acclaimed Minneapolis-based chef and author, replies with characteristic enthusiasm when asked why she loves apples like those in Seed Savers Exchange’s Historic Orchard at Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa:
”I love picking apples—it’s an absorbing task, rich with the sweet scent of this iconic fruit. A good apple tastes of the autumn sun, of the waning light, of its lineage, of the weather, of the soil. All this is to say that a good apple is the taste of balance—a range of natural acids and sugars, with notes so complex that they come in waves of flavor with each bite. Real apples, cultivated with care, of our heritage, are regal reminders of our country’s true flavors."
And if anyone knows about flavors, it’s Beth. She has covered the local food scene in the Northern Heartland for 30 years—she writes for Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, and appears regularly on KARE 11 (NBC) television and MPR’s Appetites with Tom Crann. In 2018 she co-authored The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen with Sean Sherman, Seed Savers Exchange board member and winner of the James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook.
As one might suspect, Beth has plenty of recipes that feature the fruit, and she recently shared these two delicious apple recipes with Seed Savers Exchange.
Serves 6 to 8
“These make lovely individual cobblers or may be baked off in a 9 x 13 inch-baking pan,” says Beth.
5 (heritage) apples, a mix of varieties, cored and sliced ¼-inch thick
½ cup fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Toss the fruit with half of the sugar and spread it into an 8 or 9-inch baking pan or distribute among individual ramekins. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and the remaining sugar. Cut in the butter using two knives or your fingers until the mixture resembles peas. Work in the egg until you have a stiff dough. Drop the dough onto the fruit by tablespoonfuls (do not spread it out). Bake until golden and just beginning to brown, about 35 to 45 minutes.
Pan Roasted Apples with Maple and Hazelnuts
Serves 4 to 6
“For dessert, serve these warm from the oven, on their own or with a little whipped cream or spooned over vanilla ice cream,” says Beth. “They’re also great on breakfast oatmeal or pancakes, or cut back on the maple syrup and serve over grilled or roasted pork, lamb, or duck.”
6 to 8 (heritage) apples, cored and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sunflower oil or unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup hazelnuts, pecans, or walnuts
Pinch coarse salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the apple slices with the oil or melted butter and the maple syrup. Spread out on the baking sheet and scatter the hazelnuts over the apples. Sprinkle with a tiny pinch of salt. Roast the apple slices until shrunken and nicely caramelized, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove and serve warm.
Seed Savers Exchange stewards more than 1,200 rare apple varieties—including many dessert apples that would taste delicious in cobbler or pan-roasted—in our Historic Orchard at Heritage Farm. The trees in our orchard need increased attention in order to thrive, and that’s why we launched our Historic Orchard Revitalization campaign earlier this summer. Please help us ensure that the diverse beauty and taste of North America’s 19th-century apple heritage are here for all of us today and for generations to come.
This is the final post in a four-part series about apples and Seed Savers Exchange’s Historic Orchard.