Let a Little Apple in Your Life

Beginning before even the dog days of summer have ended, Dunkin’ Donuts, in their divine Providence, reveal to us the Holey Trinity of fall: The pumpkin doughnut. The pumpkin muffin. And the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

But who among us, by the 21st night of September, hasn’t gotten sick of the silly squashes? Why torture yourself with too much of a good thing when – even if just for a month – you can let a little apple into your life?

We’re spoiled, as New Englanders, with an absurd amount of outstanding apple orchards. Whether it’s Jaswell Farm in Smithfield or Rocky Brook Orchard in Middletown or Narrow Lane Orchard in North Kingstown – there are fantastic farms all over the state to satisfy your apple fix.

It makes sense since some of the first Old World apple trees grew right here in the Ocean State. In fact, the Rhode Island Greening, our official state apple, has been among the most popular varieties of apple for centuries. Bakers call it “the definitive apple for piecraft” not only because it keeps its shape when cooked. But also because cooking accentuates its sweet-tart flavor.

In classic Rhode Island fashion, Rhode Island Greenings are available in every New England state – except Rhode Island. Though you can get your Greenings at Big Apple Farm in nearby Wrentham, MA starting in October. As with any apple picking, ripe fruits should easily separate from the tree. And if you cut them in half, they should have nice pale flesh and brown seeds.

But apple picking isn’t the only way to enjoy the forbidden fruit. Fall is also the season of cider doughnuts, apple pie, apple butter, candy apples, Jewish apple cake, the list goes on. I enjoy a mulled cider from Seven Stars. But if you’re looking for something hard, Rhode Island has some great options for that, too.

A walk through Westerly’s downtown might be the best way to spend an afternoon. And while you’re there, you can catch a nip at Tapped Apple Cidery (winners in Motif’s recent RI Drink Awards). Or on the East Bay, Sowams Cider Works in Warren also sells hard cider of a traditional, less sweetened variety. 

And then, of course, there are some apple applications you may not have considered:

Jezebel sauce is a sweet and spicy Southern thing – sort of like relish or pepper jelly. Everyone seems to have their own recipe but most include the following basic ingredients: ½ cup apple jelly, ½ cup pineapple or apricot preserves, 1 tbsp spicy mustard and 1-2 tbsp of horseradish. Serve it warm over goat cheese or queijo fresco with crackers, spread it over chicken or pork, or slather it on a sandwich.

Then, of course, there’s the New England classic, boiled cider. Boiled cider is basically a super tart syrup concentrated from about a thousand and a half apples. I would not drizzle it over pancakes, but it’s great on ice cream, as a glaze on chicken or duck, or for ratcheting up the flavor in apple bread, apple tarts or a classic boiled cider pie. If you’ve never tried boiled cider, treat yourself to Wood’s Cider Mill (the most famous maker) or Carr’s Ciderhouse from western Mass.

Whether for sips or bites, apples are as versatile as any other fall fruit. So as sure as God made little green apples, you won’t regret letting a little more in your life.

Flavor pairings

Honey (entertain your friends with a flight of raw honeys and sliced apples). Cardamom. Almond extract. Cheddar cheese (throw a slice on your apple pie; it’s a New England tradition). Oranges (despite the old saying, apples and oranges pair wonderfully). And the classic apple spice trinity of cinnamon, allspice, and anise.

A cocktail

In a mug: 6 oz hot cider, 1 oz whiskey, ½ oz brandy, and a little drizzle of honey. I call it a Weasley Jumper, and it’s wicked.

A sip for teetotalers

10-oz ginger beer, 2-oz apple cider vinegar and a quick drizzle of real maple syrup. Shake it hard in a mason jar and serve it cold on a hot day. It’s called switchel, and it’s an old New England favorite.

To serve at a party

Dump a gallon of apple cider into a coffee urn or a crockpot. Throw in 3-4 cinnamon sticks, a few orange wheels, 20-ish cranberries, 5 allspice berries and 2-3 star anise pods. And make your own mulled cider. The coffee urn is easier to serve in, but a crockpot is cuter.

A picnic

Begin with a bag of fresh-picked apples. A good stinky cheese from your local cheesemonger (I like Edgewood Cheese). Warm baguette or papo secos from Taunton Ave Bakery. Apple jelly for dipping and a can of kippered herring if you’re nasty. Roll out a blanket at your favorite park, and indulge. Apples. Cheese. Bread.   •

A mixtape (0:45)

(1) “The Orchard” by Ra Ra Riot, (2) “I Want You to Love Me” by Fiona Apple, (3) “Apple Butter” by Dana and Alden, (4) “Apple Cider” by Beabadoobee, (5) “Apple Cider Vinegar” by Jimmy, (6) “Why?” by Applesauce, (7) “Cherry Blossom Cider” by Jazzinuf, (8) “Appletree” by Erykah Badu, (9) “Bonita Applebum” by A Tribe Called Quest, (10) “Under the Table,” by Fiona Apple, (11) “Apple Cider Vinegar” by Brett Gilgus, (12) “Sweet” by Red Delicious. (On Spotify)