NEW YORK — It's that time of year again—fresh apple season. If you are lucky enough to live near an orchard, you can take the day and pick your own bushel of apples. But whether you are picking them at the market or off a tree, there are many great things to do with apples that don't include making a pie.
Besides apple pie, some ideas you might not have thought of:
— Cut apples into matchstick-size strips and add them to your favorite kale salad for a tart and crunchy addition.
— Saute chunks of peeled apples in butter, season them with a touch of sugar and a pinch of salt, and serve them with any egg dish to brighten up breakfast. In the South, these are sometimes "fried" with bacon fat and called "fried apples," but I prefer butter. Sauteed apples are also great in pancakes. Let them cool, and add to your favorite pancake batter. If you are a fan of cinnamon like I am, add a pinch and they'll taste like apple pie.
— Make an apple upside-down cake, and add cranberries for a festive touch. Use your favorite pineapple upside-down cake recipe but substitute apples.
— Make a gourmet open-faced tartine, aka sandwich with brie cheese and apples. Brush the bread with your favorite jam — think fig, apricot, raspberry, etc. and top with apples, brie and walnuts. Melt under a broiler and enjoy!
— Make a faux sauerkraut for fall sausages by cooking down grated apples, sliced onions and fennel. Finish with a pinch of caraway seeds and a couple of tablespoons of butter for richness.
— Cook apples slowly until they melt into homemade applesauce. Begin by peeling and coring the apples, and add the juice of a large lemon, and a little sugar and cinnamon. Put the lid on the pot and slowly cook on the stovetop. When they have cooked down to the texture of chunky applesauce, taste and season as you like.
— If you have a juicer, make your own apple juice and serve it cold or hot.
— Make your own apple butter. Cook about 5 pounds of apples with cup of apple cider until they are deep brown and have a creamy, "buttery" consistency. Season with your favorite autumn spices. No sugar necessary. You can do this easily in a slow cooker or a pressure cooker. The slow cooker is the slow, all day method and the pressure cooker is the fast method.
Reminder: If you get a bunch of apples, keep them in a cool place. I have had success keeping them for months in the crisper drawer of my refrigerator. If you picked your own and went a little crazy, and have too many to fit in your refrigerator, wrap each apple individually in paper — unprinted newsprint paper works well — and store in the garage or basement where it is cool. Be careful of any rotting apples, because the old saying "One bad apple spoils the bunch" is true.
My favorite thing to make with extra apples is my Grandmother Odom's Apple Cake. The recipe doesn't call for any liquid because the fresh apples give up their juice as the cake bakes, and that creates liquid in the batter. It's a simple cake to make and is positively addicting. In fact, anytime I have a prickly relationship with someone, I make them my grandmother's cake and it changes our relationship! I call it The Power of Grandmother Odom's Apple Cake.
Grandmother Odom's Apple Cake
4 generous cups raw apples, peeled and cut coarse (about 5 large apples)
2 cups granulated sugar
cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
Pan: Bundt or Tube Pan
Preheat oven to 350F
Peel and chop apples and set aside in a large bowl. Meanwhile, beat together sugar and oil in a stand mixer or by hand using a blending fork, and add eggs one at a time until creamy.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon and soda. Add to batter in 3 stages.
Remove from stand mixer and fold in chopped apples. The batter will be very stiff like cookie dough but will loosen up as the apples release their juice. Let sit for 5 minutes, stir well and add walnuts. Mix well.
Pour batter into a prepared pan and place on a sheet pan to bake.
Bake 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan 10 minutes, then invert on a cake cooling rack.
Sometimes my grandmother would make this cake with black walnuts that she gathered and cracked herself instead of traditional walnuts. If you like black walnuts, you will love them in this cake.
Glaze: If you are serving the cake cool, a simple confectioner's sugar glaze spiked with calvados and made with apple cider dresses this cake up.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a grilling, barbecue and Southern foods expert, and the author of four cookbooks, including the newly released "Steak and Cake."