Reed Valley Orchard apples, 2008

Reed Valley Orchard apples, 2008

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)

  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 and fresh mint.
  4. Stir together the oil, maple syrup, 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 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?