Fall Apples: Crunching Toward a Zesty Recipe
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?
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)
- Squeeze the juice from one lime into a large work bowl.
- As you dice apples, put the dice in the work bowl and toss to coat with lime juice to keep the apples from browning.
- Add the chopped celery, pecans, golden raisins, dried cranberries or cherries and fresh mint.
- Stir together the oil, sorghum, and horseradish.
- Add the oil mixture to the apple mixture and toss thoroughly.
- 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.