We have several apple trees in the back yard; four actually. And a pear tree; but the pear tree doesn’t bear much fruit, a small basket only, if we’re lucky. I haven’t managed to figure out the right time to harvest the pears, despite reading up about it. They’re supposed to be picked while still hard and allowed to ripen slowly off the tree. If they’re left on too long they become mealy.
The apple trees though are prolific. We don’t spray them so the apples arrive bumpy and somewhat worm eaten and they don’t keep all that well, transitioning quickly from crisp and hard to soft and mellow and ripe. The wasps circle them, making mischief.
Every autumn, I suffer a sense of urgency, working through recipes, trying to use them before they’re only good for the compost pile. I make applesauce that’s tinged a beautiful pale pink, dyed as it is by the skins included in the pot, mouli’ed out at the end.
This year, following the simple directions of Sandor Katz, fermentation guru, I tried to make cider [wife edits: the man ferments everything! He could ferment wallpaper paste. Actually, fermented wallpaper paste might make a good sourdough]. I left a “test” bottle to ferment on the counter for a week. It became gloriously golden and clear so I was brave enough to try it. It had bracing flavour and a tickling fizz that danced on my tongue with astringent force. Enough of a lure to let it sit another week with the hope of increasing the alcohol content. But I left the protective cheesecloth ajar and the fruit flies had a hey day with it, turning it into a rather nasty counter experiment I won’t describe here. Down the sink it went. I’ll try it again when I’ve recovered.
I also tried a batch of Apple Maple Butter from the gloriously photographed Tart and Sweet by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler. The recipe turned out to be too sweet for me, though the kids like it. But the cookbook also includes a recipe for apple cake that uses the apple butter, so I tried that as well, to good effect. This recipe has been modified only slightly from their version. The bundt pan keeps it looking pretty and dressed up. Don’t worry if you don’t have apple butter, apple sauce will work just as well here.
Apple Spice Cake
2 cups (480 grams) unbleached white flour
1 cup (240 grams) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon (5 grams) kosher salt
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 grams) cinnamon
¼ teaspoon (1.25 grams) ground cloves
¼ teaspoon (1.25 grams) ground ginger
½ whole nutmeg, grated
1 cup (240 grams) unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup (60 ml) canola oil
2 cups (480 grams) sugar
3 large eggs
2 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½ inch (1 cm) dice
1 cup (240 ml) Apple Butter
extra demerara or torbinado sugar for sprinkling on finished cake
Preheat the oven to 325 F (160 C). Butter and flour a 9 inch round cake or Bundt pan.
Whisk the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg in a medium bowl to combine. In another large bowl, whisk the butter, oil, and sugar together; add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition.
In three parts, add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth. Fold in the apple butter and the apples.
Scrape the batter (it will be thick) into the prepared pan. If using the round cake pan, sprinkle the top with sugar. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a toothpick poked in the middle comes out clean (baking time for both types of pan, round or bundt, will be the same). Cool on a rack before removing from pan. If using bundt pan, once cake is removed from pan, sprinkle the top with sugar.