Apples for Dinner

A recent foray to Bolton Orchards reminded me of the old song from Guys & Dolls. A Bushel and a Peck. I bought a Peck of apples, and then some. I was invited to help celebrate Jen's birthday and a little bird told me apple pie was her favorite. So apple pie it was. Well, pies, actually. I made two anticipating 20 guests.

After Doc watched the apple pie making extravaganza, he felt a little left out, I think. That just won't do. We have apples left over from that peck+ and Virginia Willis' cookbook, Bon Appetit, Y'all! arrived, so I thought it was a good time to make another pie. We cut into it with friends. Happy faces all around.

I'm sharing this even though it's not prettiest pie because I want people to know, you can bake a pie that's delicious and pleasing, even if it's not gonna win any beauty contests. It's a testament to this dough that even though my kitchen was too warm, it could patch it together and it still worked. Don't be afraid of pie!

 

Adventures in Brining

My first experience brining was a quasi-disaster. It's me and the directions thing all over again. I tend not to do well with following them, you see. Not a "read the manual" kind of girl. When you brine, it's pretty important to get the proportions right. Too much salt and not enough water, salty meat. (Salty gravy, salty leftovers.) Not enough salt, too much water brining transfer fails.

The other night, we had beautiful thick center cut pork chops, some kale, Russian Banana Fingerlings. I got the brining right and added a flourish of my own. Fall on a plate. And fall on it we did!

Apples Four Ways

First, I juiced apples into a brine, then sauteed slices with the brined pork chops. I drank a hard cider (Farnum Hill Cider - crisp and much drier than I'd anticipated) with the meal. Finally, we finished with Virginia Willis' "Mama's Apple Pie" from Bon Appetit Y'all.

This brine from Epicurious makes a much larger portion than is needed for two chops. Save half and brine some chicken breasts, or a second meal of pork. It works equally well with both pork and chicken. I made some adaptations to the Jody Adams/Ken Rivard recipe. It is definitely going to become part of the regular rotation.

 

Maple, Apple, Bols Genever Brine

Makes sufficient brine for two meals - we did two large pork chops with half and two large chicken breasts with the second half. Bols is a Genever - the precursor to gin - in a way. It's malt based with a much rounder flavor profile. I had a hunch it would work well here and it did. It's fantastic to drink as well and I was interested to note that the staff at Russell House Tavern served a Bols and apple cocktail at the Chefs Collaborative reception.

 

Click to go to site. Fun and cocktails!

Ingredients:

  • 1 C kosher salt
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 3/4 C maple syrup
  • 3 TBSP Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 TBSP juniper berries
  • 1/2 tsp whole cloves
  • 1/4 C fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 TBSP fresh thyme, chopped
  • 12 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 TBSP fresh ginger, chopped
  • Lge pinch of coriander seeds
  • 4 C water, 1 C Bols, 1 C fresh pressed apple juice, 2 C ice

 

Technique:

The idea behind a brine is that you're creating a flavored salty solution to soak the meat in. The salinity creates an exchange between the brine and the water in the meat. It's important not to mess too much with the salinity because it will affect this process. So the water is extracted from the meat and the flavored brine is drawn into it. This results in the meat being flavored, a little salty and it will cook a little quicker, too. Be very careful not to add salt later, say, if you're making a pan sauce with some cider, as I did. The juices rendered from the meat will have sufficient salt.

Place all your spices and 4 C of water in a large stock pot and bring to a boil.

You want to ensure you're dissolving all the sugar and salt and releasing the aromatic oils from the herbs. Once the brine has boiled, take it off the heat. Add your Bols, apple juice and then two cups of ice. This should cool the brine down some, but let it rest a while. Don't place the meat into the brine while it's still hot or it will impede the exchange which is the whole point of the brine.

Place the meat and brine, once cooled, together in a large non-reactive (that means not aluminum, I'd use a large glass bowl or ceramic baker) cover tightly and be sure the meat is fully submerged. Refrigerate for at least four and preferably 8 hours (no more than 12.)

When you're ready to cook the meat. Remove from the brine and pat dry with paper towel. No need to rinse. Pan roast or grill the meat. I added slices of apples and deglazed with more cider. So good.

 

Please try this and let me know how you like it. I just did a batch of the chicken breasts in the second half of the brine last night. Pan seared, threw a lid on it and they cooked fairly quickly. Started skin-side down, nice color, turned and added some cider to the pan, then a little broth. Finished with gremolata and Katz' Gravenstein Apple Cider vinegar.