Recipe Corner Cooking Techniques

Give My Regards to Johnny Appleseed

ApplesHaving spent part of my elementary school years in the Midwestern and Northeastern U.S., I heard about the legends of Johnny Appleseed, a late 18th/early 19th century pioneer who famously planted miles of apple orchards from Pennsylvania to Illinois.

Usually, the apple-planting tales in the classroom would be accompanied by small cups of apple cider, although during third grade, the talented Miss Schmidt treated the class to a streuseled apple crumb cake. By autumn's end, I'd have stuffed my greedy little chipmunk face with apple pies and cobblers, cinnamon and honey baked apples, gooey caramel apples (delicious but messy for show & tell) -- and, of course, cup upon cup of hot apple cider.

Not surprisingly, apples are intrinsically tied to my seasonal nostalgia. Even now as I type, I'm sipping a warm apple spice tea, almost oblivious to the 90+ degree temps. Apples are magical in that way.

Though they're often associated with Americana ("Mom, baseball and apple pie"), right along with Norman Rockwell and Radio Flyer red wagons, apples have a history that spans centuries throughout Europe and Asia. Colonists brought the apple to the Americas in the 17th century, and the beloved fruit became embedded in U.S. cuisine and culture -- particularly the American love of snacking, which explains the apple spice tea and peanut butter bars that typically linger in my office.

Thank goodness, apples are a healthy snack, earning their place in the saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." It shouldn't be too difficult to test that theory: Baked, fried, grilled, puréed, sliced, dried, fermented or covered with something equally delectable, apples boast incredible menu options, and can be found as readily in German apple pancakes as Korean potato salad.

Personally, I enjoy the simplest method possible: raw, the same way the apple came from the tree. Johnny Appleseed would've approved.