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Falling for Apples
by Missy Sheehan
Savor the flavor of the region’s favorite fall fruit.
As summer fades in Washington County, ushering in the cool breezes and changing leaves that signal the coming of autumn, area residents look forward to enjoying their favorite fall fruit — apples.
As of 2010, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, apples are the second most popular fruit in the nation after bananas. And that fact definitely rings true due to our long history of apple cultivation. Each year events like Canal Apple Days in Hancock, the Apple Butter Festival in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., and the Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival in Martinsburg, W.Va., draws people from near and far to celebrate the region’s apple-inspired heritage.
Aside from these annual events, home cooks and bakers showcase the sweet flavor of the fall fruit by making their favorite apple dishes throughout the season. Local organizations, such as the Women’s Club in Hagerstown and the Hancock Lions Club are also cashing in on the love for apples by selling goods like apple cider, and dumplings each year.
Cultivating an Appetite for Apples
Chris Forsythe, who owns Linden Hall Orchard in Hagerstown with her husband, grew up around apples. The farm’s been in her family for more than 100 years, she says. Her great-grandparents started growing apples in the 1920s, and today the family grows about 10 different varieties on the farm.
Chris says eating apples is one of her favorite parts of fall. “I remember my mother making us apple dumplings every year — using my great-grandmother’s recipe. I still make them for my family,” she says.
Chris believes you can use almost any variety of apple in most recipes, but some are better than others. “Golden delicious, Stayman, York, and Mutsu are excellent to cook with,” she says. “They’re firmer, and they hold their shape better while cooking.”
Karen Lyon, whose family has owned Ivy Hill Farms in Smithsburg since 1850, also has childhood memories centered around apples. Her family has been growing more than a dozen varieties on the farm for generations. Though Karen now lives in Williamsburg, Va., her brother John Steven Martin, runs the farm today.
There are several family recipes featuring apples on Ivy Hill Farm’s website. “One of my favorite recipes is my dad’s sausage burgers — he started making them when I was a kid,” Karen says. “It’s become a family favorite over the years. We make them probably two to three times a month.” Her mother’s apple cider punch is another family favorite, Karen says. “There’s no family gathering without it.”
As American as Apple Pie Bars
Toya Koch, circulation manager for Hagerstown magazine, has fond memories of eating apples as a kid in Michigan, where she grew up. “There’s actually a lot of apples grown there, too,” she says. “I had a friend who had an apple orchard and we’d go for bike rides and pick apples right off the trees and eat them.”
Living in Hagerstown now, Toya says apples are one of her favorite fruits to cook with. Last year, she found a recipe for apple pie bars in the King Arthur Flour catalog that’s been a hit every time she’s made it. “Rather than making apple pie in a pie pan, you use a baking sheet and cut out rectangles for the top and bottom crust and then put the filling in,” she says.
Savoring the Love
Several community organizations capitalize on this love of apples to raise needed funds by selling apple-themed goods each year. The Hancock Lions Club, for example, annually hosts Canal Apple Days, a two-day event where they sell freshly-pressed apple cider by the gallon. The funds raised from the apple cider sales support the club’s community goals, such as awarding students with college scholarships and supplying eyeglasses for those in need, says Walter Dyer, a Hancock Lions Club member for 47 years.
Now in its 38th year, the 2014 Canal Apple Days is set for Sept. 20–21. “Our cider isn’t your typical cider that’s been fermented into a mild alcoholic drink,” says Bill Minnick, a member of the Lions Club board of directors. “It’s just straight, fresh-pressed apple juice.”
“We press the apples right there while you watch,” Dyer adds. “We don’t add any spices or anything — if you have good apples you don’t need anything else.”
The Women’s Club in Hagerstown, similarly, has been making apple dumplings along with homemade soups to sell at its annual fall festival for about a decade, according to club manager Linda Ogilvie. Most of the money raised at the fall festival goes to maintenance of the club’s historic building, which was purchased in 1921, she says.
This year’s festival is set for Nov. 1. “We usually make over 300 dumplings,” Linda says. “It’s quite a challenge.” The apple dumpling recipe the club uses each year can be found in the Women’s Club cookbook, which the club published in 2012. The cookbook features several apple recipes submitted by members. “Everyone loves apples around here,” Linda says. “But especially apple dumplings.”
Amazing Apple Recipes
Whip up some apple-inspired dishes with recipes recommended by local cooks.
John Richard Martin’s Sausage Burgers
Recipe courtesy Karen Lyon, who shares her father's recipe
- 1 pound bulk pork sausage
- 1 large apple, peeled and chopped
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup soft bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup honey
Mix together sausage, chopped apples, beaten egg and bread crumbs. Form into patties and chill while preparing a grill. Grill over charcoal (or gas grill) using a teaspoon of honey to caramelize the sausage on each side towards the end of cooking time. Watch carefully as the honey will burn.
Editor’s note: Although these are fantastic on the grill, John Richard’s wife Jeanne often made them in a skillet, too.
Recipe courtesy of Linda Ogilvie, who shares Joan Schupp’s recipe from the Women’s Club cookbook
- 6 medium cooking apples
(4-6 cups), peeled and sliced
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/2 cup butter
Place peeled and sliced apples in greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon, and add water. In a separate bowl, work flour, sugar and butter with fingertips (or use pastry blender) until crumbly. Spread over apples the mixture over the apples and bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
Apple Pie Bars
Recipe courtesy of Toya Koch, circulation manager for RidgeRunner Publishing, who shares a recipe from King Arthur Flour.
- 2 cups King Arthur Perfect Pastry Blend or unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
- 4 to 6 tablespoons ice water
Combine the flour and salt. Work in the butter, then sprinkle in the water, mixing until cohesive. Form the pastry into two rectangles; wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour. When the hour is up, preheat the oven to 425 degrees, lightly grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment and begin making the filling.
- about 6 cup peeled, cored, and sliced baking apples; Granny Smiths are fine
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon Apple Pie Spice
- 2 tablespoons boiled cider
- 3 tablespoons King Arthur Pie Filling Enhancer
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 large egg beaten with 1tbsp water (egg wash)
Mix all the ingredients except the egg.
Roll one piece of pastry into a 17- by 7-inch rectangle, trimming the edges. Roll the second piece into a 16- by 6-inch rectangle, trimming again.
Place the smaller rectangle on the pan and brush with egg wash. Spread the filling over the pastry, leaving 3/4-inch-wide bare edges. Center the other piece of pastry over the apples and press down, crimping the edges to seal. Brush with the egg wash, and cut several vents, to allow steam to escape.
Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 12 to 14 minutes, until golden brown.
Editor’s note: While regular apple cider or even apple juice can be used in place of boiled cider, Toya recommends purchasing boiled cider from King Arthur's website. “It really intensifies the flavor.”
Recipe courtesy of Chris Forsythe of Linden Hall Farms, who shares her great-grandmother’s recipe.
- 8 medium to large apples, peeled and cored
- 2 cups flour
- 2/3 cup vegetable shortening
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup cold water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, shortening, salt and sugar. Add cold water until dough is right consistency. Roll out pie dough, and cut into squares to fit apples. Place apples onto dough squares. Fill the core hole with sugar, then sprinkle with cinnamon and place a little butter on top. Wrap dough around apples and place in a 9- by 13-inch pan.
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1 tablespoon butter
Combine water, sugar, orange juice and butter. Heat syrup to dissolve sugar and melt butter. Then pour over apple dumplings. Bake dumplings for one hour or until done (slightly brown), basting dumplings every 20 minutes while baking and again after removing from oven.