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

1 or 2 limes

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

Four 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

2 teaspoons 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 and fresh mint.
  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.

One more thing to consider: Nigella Lawson caught my attention when I heard her say on NPR a few weeks ago, "I go mad for mint in summer. I think it's very undervalued."

But mint in summer in Kentucky sometimes fades a bit. Mint in spring and fall are amazing. Our Wayne County mint, probably a spearmint, has dozens of perfect leaf rosettes right now, just as it had in April.

Horseradish, too, has become a new subject of fascination, and I am relieved all our attempts to root it out of our garden have failed. Homemade grated, prepared horseradish from good friends made this fall apple recipe sing (high soprano, specifically), and I am maybe perhaps sort of possibly thinking about seeing whether I can prepare some from our hearty, persisting plants. Falling for horseradish....delightful.