Fall Apples: Crunching Toward a Zesty Recipe

Autumn Leaves, Old Episcopal Burying Ground, Lexington, KY

Autumn Leaves, Old Episcopal Burying Ground, Lexington, KY

You may have noticed it's fall.

Which led to a birthday celebration with quite a few families participating, which led to the making of a fall apple salad. Reed Valley Orchard apples probably make any apple salad irresistible, but I had a particular notion about this salad, and no recipe to do what I wanted. With Gold Rush and Stayman Winesaps in the house -- two different versions of tart-sweet-complex appleness -- I envisioned a sort of Waldorf Salad that did not use mayonnaise.

An emulsion diversion: I am a mayonnaise snob. And I am a mayonnaise wimp. I never liked mayonnaise until I learned to make it from scratch in a quick three minutes in the blender. (I'm not enough of a snob to require making it by hand with a whisk.) I make it with half olive oil, half something neutral, like grape seed oil. Tangy, olive-oily, adaptable (wasabi, chili, garlic, horseradish....)

So now I like (very specific certain versions of safe homemade) mayonnaise. I won't eat anyone else's mayonnaise, though, unless a family member makes it, and I know the hens that laid the eggs, pretty much by name. I also do not use my own homemade mayonnaise when cooking for people I do not know well. Why go through all that explaining and caveating, and they probably like "Hades-mans" best anyway?

Reed Valley Orchard apples, 2008

Reed Valley Orchard apples, 2008

What to do for the birthday party? I looked at recipes for inspiration, looked in my refrigerator, cabinets, and herb garden for a reality check,  and devised this, a work in progress:

Kentucky Fall Apple Salad

I developed this salad one fall when the Reed Valley Orchard Stayman Winesap, Mutsu and Gold Rush apples filled my house. I wanted sweet-tart apple crunch, tang, Kentucky nuts, and no goopy mayonnaise. Bingo!


  • 1 or 2 limes, zest grated if you like extra citrus punch

  • 1 cup fresh hickory nuts, black walnuts, or pecans, toasted and finely chopped

  • 8 fine, firm fall apples, diced with skins on: Gold Rush, Mutsu, or Stayman Winesap work well

  • 4 stalks crisp celery, finely chopped

  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries or dried sour cherries (chop these lightly if you like)

  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, sliced fine

  • 2 Tablespoons neutral oil like grape seed, or a nut oil like pecan, walnut, or hazelnut if you like

  • 2 teaspoons Kentucky sweet sorghum syrup (omit or add more at your option)

  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish (the kind with nothing but horseradish, or just horseradish and vinegar; no cream or oil)


  1. Squeeze the juice from one lime into a large work bowl.

  2. As you dice apples, put the dice in the work bowl and toss to coat with lime juice to keep the apples from browning.

  3. Add the chopped celery, pecans, golden raisins, dried cranberries or cherries, fresh mint and lime zest, if using.

  4. Stir together the oil, sorghum, and horseradish.

  5. Add the oil mixture to the apple mixture and toss thoroughly.

  6. Taste and adjust to suit the apples and your preferences.

·       Want it more tart? Squeeze half or all the second lime and add it.

·       Want it sweeter? Add more sorghum.

·       Want more zing? More horseradish.

·       Want more color? More cranberries or celery, or both.

Garnish with extra mint, curls or lime peel, rose petals or fall marigold blossoms from your garden.