21 September 2009

Apple season

Apple season began around five this afternoon. I spent this beautiful September afternoon listening to baseball and washing storm windows and screens. Around four-thirty I knew we didn't have much time to get to the orchard, so I called to the kids and we hopped in the car. Ten minutes later we were glad to see an 8-6 sign nailed onto a fence post; we'd made it on time.
We walked into the refrigerated storeroom where they keep their apples; we wanted to taste a few before we decided what varieties to buy. Still early in the season, only one variety was available to pick, but there were a half dozen different apples in crates and bags. We tasted Early Blush, a fragrant, early season favorite, McIntosh and Cortland, Honeycrisp, Zestar, and Haralson. After tasting what was there, we bought bags of Zestar and Honeycrisp, both patented apples introduced by the University of Minnesota, and Haralson, a nice tart eating and baking apple, also introduced by the University of Minnesota, but back when land grant universities did work for the greater good of the state and its residents.

When we got home I put a pot of water for pasta on the stove and got to work making a tarte tatin, a reliable and delicious apple-upside-down tart. It went into the oven while the pasta was cooking and was finished before we were. We'll be eating a lot of these in the coming months. Here's how I do it.

Tarte tatin
1 cup flour
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2-4 tbsp ice cold water
3-5 tart apples, cored, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into thin slices
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
To make the crust, mix dry ingredients in bowl, add cold butter in chunks and mix with fork until pebbly. Add cold water one tbsp at a time and stir until flour holds together. Roll into crust the size of the pan you're using, using sprinkles of flour to keep from sticking.
Put a heavy, cast iron pan on stovetop and melt butter over medium low heat. Sprinkle brown sugar on top and let melt. I add the apple slices neatly and don't stir them once they're in. The thing to remember is that the apples shrink a lot; add at least four or five layers of them. After you've made it a few times it'll be easier to judge how many apples are needed. Add the apples and the butter-sugar mixture will bubble and sigh a little like a nicely stirred polenta. Keep adding the apples, making sure the whole surface is covered several layers deep. Sprinkle with cinnamon. After a few minutes, when the apples have softened up, remove from heat. Lay crust on top and poke a few holes in it. I fold any extra crust back on itself; it makes for a nice edge.
Bake at 375° F for about 45 minutes or until crust is browned.

When finished, put serving plate on top of pan and flip carefully. Let the upside down pan rest a few minutes before removing. Sometimes a rubber spatula is needed to dislodge a few apples stuck in the frying pan; it's also good for scraping any of the butter-sugar goo that's still in the pan.
Serve warm.


  1. I was asked about the low fat-to-flour ratio in this crust. It's not a flaky crust; it's a crisp one that works well for flipping over. Also, I rarely use a fork to cut butter in - I prefer using my fingertips.

  2. Oh yum. Ptrick we just finished off the tart with some vanila ice cream all warm and melting. I had such a busy day and left your blog page up on my laptop. At 4:30 I finally glanced over and said... ah yes.. Lets make that.

    Joe made his famous pizza and I made the tart.
    We Miss you!! Cheers with my warm coffee cup.

  3. Printing this one now, Patrick. The apples are rolling down the Avenues in NYC this time of year. The photo looks edible.
    Peace on you and yours