Eating seasonal foods is a fantastic idea all year round, but I admit to getting an extra amount of satisfaction when it comes to end-of-the-year holiday season foods.
Starting with late October and working through January, I am going to explore the foods that are in season for North America, the history behind their use in holiday celebrations, as well as a few recipes and pictures.
An Apple A Day
The saying, “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.” is from an old English proverb, “To eat an apple before going to bed, will make the doctor beg his bread.”
Apples are a large part of Halloween celebrations, but their use dates back even further than Celtic harvest festivals. In the Roman pantheon, the Goddess Pomona holds dominion over orchards and apples. Apple games like bobbing for apples and using apple peels for divination all date back to her celebrations, her Festival Day being October 31st.
To use an apple peel for divination, try cutting a long strip of peel from around an apple. Don’t worry if you can’t make it all the way around, although you can have a contest to see who gets the longest peel! Take a portion of apple peel and throw it backwards over your shoulder. The peel will form a shape or initial that can tell you the name of the person you will marry, or the name of your first child, or the next person to come in the door (specify what you are looking for before you throw the peel).
In Scotland a dish known as “crowdie” was a sort of porridge, made in any number of variations. Today a crowdie is a soft cheese, but a few hundred years ago it could mean any kind of mushy-textured dish, usually made from oats softened with water or milk or broth, mixed with clotted cream or mashed apples. At one time a popular Fall party game was to share a crowdie bowl with other people. The dish would contain marbles, rings and coins. One used a spoon and carefully dished out a portion, which might include a surprise! If you found a ring, you were soon to marry, a coin meant wealth, and a marble meant a single life. Just be careful not to swallow something you shouldn’t!
Here is a recipe for sweet, cheesy Crowdie porridge made with chunky applesauce. You can use store-bought applesauce, but making your own is so easy!
2-4 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chunked
1 tsp or to taste fresh grated cinnamon, other sweet spices optional
¼ cup water.
Cook apple chunks until soft enough to mash with a fork.
1 cup whole milk or cream
1/2 cup steel cut pinhead oats
1 cup heavy clotted cream or ricotta cheese
1 cup spiced apple sauce
1 oz whiskey (opt)
Pour 1 cup milk or cream over pinhead oats in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then let sit several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
Blend clotted cream or cheese, applesauce and whiskey into the oats. Sweeten to taste with honey, sugar, or even maple syrup.
Serve with a spoon hot or cold, for breakfast or as a side to an apple pie.
Apple Pie and Apple Crumble are also traditional autumnal foods. The smell of apple and cinnamon baking in the oven is one of life’s great pleasures. We came up with a gluten-free version to create a very warm, satisfying plate full of apple goodness.
Gluten Free Apple Crumble
1 bag Mi-Del Gluten Free Ginger Snaps
4 oz organic unsalted butter, melted
4-6 medium sized Macintosh apples, cored, peeled and sliced
¼ cup local wildflower honey
1 tbsp fresh ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. mixed sweet spices (nutmeg, allspice, clove, ginger)
1 cup gluten-free oats
½ cup gluten-free oat flour
2 tbsp. honey
Using a blender, grind up the cookies to form crumbs. Mix with 2 oz of the melted butter and press into the bottom of a pie plate. Chill to firm up.
Slice the apples. Mix the spices and reserve one half for the crumble. Pour 1 oz of the butter over the apples, add the honey and toss them with ½ of the spice blend. Place in the pie shell, arranging the top layer for a pretty effect if you like.
Combine the oats and oat flour (easy oat flour can be made in your coffee or spice grinder for the amount needed here). Add the remaining spice blend and last ounce of butter and 2 tbsp. honey. Mix thoroughly.
Sprinkle the crumble over the top of the apple pie.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 – 40 minutes, or until the apples are soft and the crumble is brown. You may want to cover the pie for the first half of the baking time and then let the crumble brown at the end.
This is delicious hot out of the oven, but it also holds up well for breakfast the next day. The crust holds together better once it’s cooled, but that hardly matters when you want it hot out of the oven!
Apples form a large part of our seasonal Autumnal festivals. Enjoy them every day, but make sure they get a place of honor on your holiday tables!
What is your favorite apple dish? Leave a note in the Comments!