A family birthday celebration in fall led to the making of a new 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*.
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 pecans, toasted and finely chopped 8 fine, firm fall apples, diced with skins on. I used six Gold Rush and two Stayman Winesap. Four stalks crisp celery, finely chopped 1/2 cup golden raisins 1/3 cup dried cranberries (chop these lightly if you like) 1/2 cup fresh mint, sliced fine (optional, like everything else in this recipe! I used mint at first only for garnish but then discovered it adds nicely to the flavors if treated like a proper ingredient.) 2 Tablespoons neutral oil like grape seed, or a nut oil like pecan, walnut, or hazelnut 2 teaspoons amber maple syrup (omit or add more at your option) 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish (the kind with nothing but horseradish, or just horseradish and vinegar, and maybe salt: 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 and fresh mint.
- Stir together the oil, maple syrup, 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 maple syrup.
- Want more zing? More horseradish.
- Want more color? More cranberries or celery, or both.
That's the recipe.
Musings about some of these ingredients, for those who like such things:
Nigella Lawson caught my attention when I heard her say on NPR, "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 in fall, just as it has 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.
* And a PS about Emulsions - An Emulsion Diversion: I am a mayonnaise snob. And I am a mayonnaise wimp. Probably you are too, after reading about the kinds of conditions that yield mass-market eggs, and the kinds of unwanted hitchhikers those eggs may bring into the kitchen of someone making mayonnaise, and then into your mouth.
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....) And I make it with pastured, organic, free range eggs from a farm I have visited, Elmwood Stock Farm.
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?