Along the Delaware River grow the native fruits of our region not unlike the corn-belts of western agriculture. Here, though, we harvest other crops more befitting the rolling hills and river valley …
Along the Delaware River grow the native fruits of our region not unlike the corn-belts of western agriculture. Here, though, we harvest other crops more befitting the rolling hills and river valley environments. Make no mistake; you can still find corn and other agricultural staples as you would elsewhere, but here, in this country, the gardens grown are done so creatively by necessity since we lack the sprawling level fields one may see in states such as Iowa or Ohio. Here snake the vegetable-laden vines of fall foods hidden under leafy canopies grown from their own backs. Over the rocky ground lay these abundant arms, filled with things like gourds, pumpkins, squash, melons and more. Between these patches of vines grow similarly weathered trees. Old and twisted, sometimes hollow and covered in lichen or moss, our apple trees are not the young things seen out around the Finger Lakes up north. No, our trees are established heritage trees, full of character and, in this hungry writer’s opinion, flavor. While these trees are a staple of the area, it is understood that they are shared with the wildlife that inhabits their woody ecosystem. Deer prey upon their lower hanging fruit and birds and other critters dispose of both fallen bounties and those they randomly choose from amongst the branches.
With what can be salvaged after nature, however, we enjoy in far more succulent forms. Apples, squash and pumpkins are the basis for a great many fall treats. These foundations may as well be the pillars of culinary exposition during the months of September through November. While some pass down recipes like closely guarded state secrets amongst their family chefs, it can be safely assumed that nearly all enjoy the foodstuffs made popular by the fall season. In this brief glimpse into fall foods, we will introduce some tried and true variations on these three pillars of equinox eating.
All three of these recipes are sure to boost your fall cooking skills to the next level and get you in touch with the ingredients native to our region. As I say in my column The Way Out Here, published biweekly in the River Reporter, the way out here, neighbors are valuable resources. If you have some apples and need a squash, you needn’t look too far to find someone willing to make an exchange. Enjoy these fall favorites and a happy Thanksgiving to come. Perhaps one of these will make your menu!
First and foremost, we begin with the apple. Bold and delectable by itself if eaten off the branch, this fruit of the rural Northeast is utilized in literally hundreds of possible recipes ranging from deep savory glazes to sweet and sticky desserts. As is only American, though, our first recipe will be a variation of the classic apple pie: an apple turnover, to be exact. Now, for you food purists out there, I add this disclaimer before we begin. These recipes are an introduction to fall foods. For those of you with more experience, I encourage you to expand and improve upon what is provided. For example, for this apple turnover, we will be using pie dough from the store (puff pastry is a great alternative). Remember my culinarian friends, this is about the apple and not the vessel or dough, in this case.
As a note to any beginners who seek to make their own dough, I will simply warn you that pie dough and puff pastry can be time-consuming and require a fair bit of troubleshooting, so before attempting to make it, perhaps start with this simple alternative which can be found in the refrigerated section at most grocery stores.
This recipe is courtesy of www.sugarspunrun.com/apple-turnovers.
2 batches pie crust dough
4 apples ( aim for 1 3/4 pounds of apples), peeled and diced into pieces no larger than a half-inch (I recommend using a tart apple like Gala, Fuji, or Granny Smith, but just about any will work here
2/3 cup light brown sugar tightly packed
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg plus 1 teaspoon water for egg wash
2 tablespoons coarse sugar for
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Break your chilled pie dough into two pieces that are roughly the same size. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and roll one piece into a rectangle about 1/8” thick. Using a pizza cutter (or a knife and a straight-edge, such as a clean ruler), neatly cut dough into 4.5” squares and transfer to a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet (you will need to gather the scraps and re-roll them out to make all 10 turnovers). Place squares on a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet and return to the refrigerator. Repeat rolling and cutting with your second half of pie dough. Prepare your apple filling by combining your apples, brown sugar and butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until butter is melted, then add cornstarch, cinnamon, vanilla extract and salt. Increase heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool (at least 15 to 20 minutes) before proceeding. Prepare egg wash by combining egg and teaspoon of water in a small dish and stir/scramble well. Lightly brush the insides of your pastry squares with egg wash. Portion about 2 to 3 tablespoons of apple pie filling into the center of each square. Gently fold over one corner to the other to envelope the apple filling. Use the tines of a fork to press and seal the turnovers. Brush the outside lightly with egg wash, cut small slits across to vent and sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 25 minutes until pastry begins to turn golden brown.
The beauty of this recipe is that these turnovers can be frozen once cooked. If you have a family gathering coming up and want to be prepared with less last-minute baking, this is a sure winner that requires only a quick warm-up in the oven or microwave to be ready to serve. And by the way, I haven’t had an apple recipe yet that didn’t go perfectly with a healthy dollop of vanilla bean ice cream!
Acorn Squash soup is a personal favorite of mine that my wife makes every fall. She often tweaks it, just a little at a time, to continue to hone it in from its ongoing consistency of mouthwatering deliciousness. If you are someone who likes a good split pea soup, I guarantee you will like this recipe. Like split pea soup, this comes out thick and can be elevated with the incorporation of pork. Ham cubes, pulled pork, stewed pork—it doesn’t matter. If you like that extra layer of protein and texture, I recommend adding it in, already cooked, right towards the end.
The soup itself is, as I said before, thick. I’m not talking about seafood-bisque thick or even pudding thick. I’m talking about mashed potato sculpture thick. If you haven’t quite grasped what I’m talking about, this is a ball-it-up in a snowball kind of thick. Anyway, if that doesn’t sound appealing to you, then simply play with the liquid ingredients to get the consistency you want, but this is how I like it and the wife knows. This recipe is courtesy of her, my wife, who has recorded this wonderful soup for posterity.
4 4-inch Acorn squash
1-1/2 to 2 cups of beef broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream, 1 dollop per cup
Cut acorn squash in half and coat inside with butter and brown sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes on a baking sheet. Remove from oven and scrape squash into a saucepan and add beef broth. Boil and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, adding pepper and salt to taste. Continue until squash is thoroughly cooked before using a hand blender or stick blender to blend until smooth. Serve in bowls and add sour cream as a dollop to the top of the soup.
With this recipe, there is a lot of room for manipulation. There have been times where my wife has added other vegetables after blending, added sweet potatoes into the blend and, as mentioned before, she normally makes it thick, but has made it to different consistencies as well. The amount of butter and brown sugar you use to coat the inside really depends on how much of a sweet tooth you have, but typically we use a tablespoon or two of each on each half of squash. Try it for yourself and see what works for you.
The pumpkin roll is a fun dessert with some more difficult technical aspects than the previous two recipes. It requires a good bit of counter space and the ready availability of refrigeration and a gentle hand. I use the ever-popular Libby’s pumpkin roll recipe that used to be found on the back of the pumpkin cans. Two things about this: I have had trouble finding it in recent days on said cans, and the recipe has also been changed in the past five years at some point. Sufficed to say, I prefer the original recipe, but you can feel free to try a variety of them. I’ve sourced what I believe to be the original recipe from www.FoodNet
work.com, courtesy of Toll House.
1/4 cup powdered sugar
(to sprinkle on towel)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup Libby’s® 100 percent
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese,
at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
(optional for decoration)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 15-by-10-inch jelly-roll pan and line with wax paper. Grease and flour paper. Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a small bowl. Beat eggs and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle with nuts. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. (If using a dark-colored pan, begin checking for doneness at 11 minutes.) Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.
Beat cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract in small mixing bowl until smooth. Carefully unroll cake. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Reroll cake. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.
Personally, I prefer not to use the walnuts, but that is up to the individual baker. When executing this desert, be careful when flipping the bread of the rollout of the pan and onto a towel to be rolled. Exercise caution to ensure there is no sticking or tearing of the bread to the pan. I have transitioned to using parchment paper because, once turned out of the pan, it can be slowly peeled back without risking this nearly as much. Another point to exercise caution would be when rolling the bread and unrolling the bread. Be sure to do so slowly and pay attention to the stress being put into the bread. If you go too quickly or tightly, it will break and make the entire endeavor that much more difficult. I like to powder the towel with a bit of powdered sugar to help it not stick to the towel. After you have rolled your pumpkin roll up for the final time with filling in it, slicing can be a bit of a sticky wicket as well. Before you slice your bread, be sure to refrigerate as much as possible, no less than an hour or two, preferably a day. When you do cut into your bread, use a serrated knife and make long slices to glide through the bread. Don’t push down or your filling will be squeezed out and your swirl shape may be compromised.