I just came in from cleaning the garage, which is a job I hate above all others. So for lunch I'm rewarding myself with two beautiful big brown eggs scrambled in a little BUTTER! I'll have two pieces of crunchy toast and sliced tomatoes from my deck garden -- and top it off with a juicy Bartlett pear and some hot coffee. Ah, yes -- life is good. Later this evening I'm making my first apple pie of the season; it's part of the rite of passage into fall.
How I love apples! When I drive past the fruit stands and see bushels of every color and variety imaginable, I have to stop and buy a few. Who among us does not have wonderful memories tied to apples? Maybe it's the little sour green apples we snitched as kids that our mothers said would kill us. For me it's a vivid memory of my aging mother-in-law and her sisters who got together every fall to make apple butter outdoors in a big black iron kettle, as old as they were. These girls had been singing together since they were toddlers -- that close harmony that only families are famous for.
So on a crisp breezy fall day, with leaves swirling and dishpans piled high with apples, the work began. As the fire kindled and the smoke rose skyward, their voices, blended in sweet harmony, rose with it -- and once again the Hendershot sisters were kids back home in West Virginia. As one stirred the sweet spicy concoction with the long homemade paddle, two of the others would be cutting loose with a do-si-do around the steaming kettle in time with the homegrown music. It was simple down home group therapy for the sisters, a good show for the onlookers and the apple butter was always delicious.
As a tribute to our singing sisters, I may have to give you a recipe for an Apple Tarte-Tatin. This tarte was "invented" by the French Tatin sisters in the early 20th century. Hmm ... I wonder if they sang?
In simple terms, this tarte is a one-crust pie with the filling coming out on top of the crust. You can also make it with pears, peaches and other fruits, and it's easy after you make the first one.
1 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
Pinch of sugar
3 T. unsalted butter, cold and cubed
2 1/2 - 3 1/2 T. ice water
3 T. butter
3/4 c. sugar
6 lg. or 8 med. apples (I use Ida Reds)
Sprinkle of cinnamon
To make the crust, combine flour, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl. Work butter in with a pastry blender or your fingertips. When butter is pea-sized lumps, drizzle the water over, mix lightly until it holds together in a ball. Add a little more water if needed. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 30 minutes.
Filling: In a heavy, oven-proof skillet, gently heat butter and sugar until melted and remove from heat.
Peel and core apples and cut into 8 slices (10-12 for very large apples). Arrange in a closely packed layer in the butter/sugar mixture. Sprinkle a little lemon juice on remaining apples and arrange in a second layer in skillet. Cook over low to medium heat for about 30 minutes until juices are bubbling and apples are getting slightly tender (they need to hold their shape).
Remove apples from heat while you preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll out the crust to cover all the apples. Trim so crust fits inside the skillet.
Bake immediately for about 20 minutes, until crust is brown and baked through. Allow skillet to cool slightly, then carefully invert onto serving plate.
WATCH FOR THE HOT SYRUP! Serve warm with a dollop of cremè fraîche. If none is available, just add a wee bit of sugar to some fresh sour cream. Serve warm. Makes 6 servings.
-- I've tried ever since Kathy Gibbons opened her new restaurant, EuroStop, and finally made it over last week. It is so cozy and the food is incredible, certainly not the usual restaurant fare. Molly and I had tomato bisque soup and tiramisu and it was wonderful. Kathy proudly gave me the kitchen tour and I have to say it was so clean you could eat off the floor! She has a great assortment of take-out foods, ready and waiting. Stop in for a special treat. You'll be so glad you did.
-- Parting Shot: "Our choices are the hinges our destiny swings on." -- Unknown
Edna Shaffer is a local mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who writes about cooking from the perspective of an older adult. She can be reached via the Record-Eagle at 120 W. Front, Traverse City, MI 49685; or by sending e-mail to: email@example.com.