An Apple a Day. . .

by Nancy Steinkoenig

Apples can be an economical part of your diet. They are readily available year round, and keep for a long time in the refrigerator. Your refrigerator crisper drawer is the ideal storage area. Apples will ripen up to ten times faster at room temperature than when refrigerated. They come in many tasty varieties, so don't stick to one kind. Some varieties, such as Golden Delicious or Granny Smith are equally good eaten raw or used in recipes. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Jonathan, Golden Delicious, Stayman, York Imperial, and Rome Beauty varieties are good baking and cooking apples. Here are my two favorite apple recipes:

Apple Crisp

This makes a large pan, which my family tends to devour, even though there are only three of us! I use the cheapest store brand margarine in recipes with good results. Serve alone, or with whipped topping, or with vanilla ice cream.

Spray a 9x13" baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel, core and slice 6 to 8 medium apples and place in pan. Sprinkle apple slices with 2 tablespoons water and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Mix together one stick regular margarine (not diet), 1 cup brown sugar (packed), 1/2 cup flour, and 1 cup oatmeal. Sprinkle topping over apples. Bake 30 minutes, or until apples are tender and topping is golden brown. Yields 8 servings.

Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

This is made with applesauce, either homemade or canned. Not all of us (including me!) have an apple tree in our backyard. I have bought the large food service size can of applesauce at Sam's Warehouse for about $3.50. My slow-cooker would not hold the entire can.

The key here is that the apple butter cooks in the slow-cooker WITH THE LID OFF. The moisture in the apple butter has to cook away, so this will not work if you have the lid on. The amounts listed are not exact, because you may have a slow-cooker that is smaller or larger than mine.

Measure into the slow-cooker, alternating, 1/2 cup sugar for each 1 cup applesauce. (This will ensure that you don't overfill the pot all at once.) Add cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves to taste. For 8 cups applesauce, I use 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. Stir to blend.

Cook on high for 6 to 7 hours WITH THE LID OFF. It is okay to stir the butter occasionally, but it is not really necessary. At the end of the cooking time, it will be dark brown and spell heavenly.

Sterilize canning jars and lids. Fill jars within 1/2 inch of top. Seal according to manufacturer's instructions. Water bath process for 10 minutes.

Enjoy the harvest!
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