Karen Dybis, Special to The Detroit News 9:10 a.m. EDT October 15, 2015
If there is any fruit synonymous with Michigan and its autumn season, it is the humble and hearty apple. At first glance, it seems like such a simple ingredient, given its abundance and consistency in the Metro Detroit marketplace. Yet this crunchy fruit also provides plenty of sensory delights with its rounded shape, glossy skin and juicy flesh.
Chefs, bakers and orchard owners all agree: Michigan apples can be the star of any cook’s dish, whether it is a sweet salsa, a cozy main course or a sweet dessert. The apple is a strong enough personality with its many varieties to handle everything from breakfast to dinner and still satisfy as a snack food in between.
Apples are an ideal ingredient – and something you’d deeply miss if you were to be away from Michigan for any reason, noted Tasso Teftsis, co-owner of Krema, Greektown’s newest sweet shop.
“Whenever we can buy local, it’s a good thing, but for Michigan apples specifically, this is simply the best time of year to use them. They have just been picked and you can taste that they are fresh,” Teftsis said.
Michigan is known as the “variety state,” said Katrina Schumacher, co-owner of Westview Orchards in Washington Township, one of Macomb’s many “U-pick” orchards featuring a winery and an “adventure farm” that blends agriculture and entertainment.
“There’s something about Michigan – apple trees just love it here,” Schumacher said. “We are said to have the ideal micro-climate for these trees and for growing fruit. It’s a mixture of our soil and our rolling hills that produce healthier trees and better quality apples … People with a certain palate can tell where their apples came from; our customers appreciate what comes out of our orchard.”
Diane Smith of Michigan Apple Committee backs that up. Michigan is the third largest apple-producing state in the nation, behind Washington and New York. The mitten state harvested an estimated 24 million bushels of apples in 2014. And Michigan has 9.2 million apple trees in commercial production, covering 36,500 acres on 850 farms within the state.
About half of all Michigan apples are sold ready to eat; the remaining 50 percent are processed into other products. But thanks to science, research and controlled storage, Michigan apples are available nearly year-around (August through June), Smith noted.
October is prime picking time, and Schumacher said she sees hundreds of families and many home chefs come through Westview’s orchard. She’s a fan of many of Westview’s varieties, especially the Gala (“It’s wonderful, so nice and firm and sweet,” Schumacher said), Jonathan (“An old-fashioned apple; it has a spicy, zippy taste”) and a newer Spy variety called the Fortune (“It is denser with a thicker, tarter skin. It is excellent for cooking and eating”).
Schumacher and her sister, Abby Jacobson, have developed a variety of recipes to highlight the many apples grown there at Westview. That means everything from pies to cider to artisan breads in the kitchen to sweet wines for its new wine-tasting room.
“It’s truly about enjoying the fruits of our labor,” Schumacher said.
The Apple Council launched a social-media campaign this fall called “Show Me Your Apples” in part to highlight the many ways people can enjoy this tempting fruit, Smith added.
“Apples are so versatile. But it’s easy to get hung up on only thinking about them in desserts. They can be used in so many ways,” Smith said. “Put them in salads when you want some crunch instead of the same old vegetables. Many people wouldn’t think of putting them in soup, but they blend perfectly … This is a great time to find new ways to incorporate them into your diet.”
Frank Olbrantz, the executive chef at 220 Merrill, agrees. His restaurant is using Michigan Honeycrisps for several new menu items this fall, including a Harvest Salad, a seasonal cobbler and an appetizer that blends slices of Honeycrisp topped with burrata cheese and a drizzle of Michigan apple-cider vinaigrette on top of toasted baguette slices.
Olbrantz said he gets 220 Merrill’s apples from Erwin Orchards in South Lyon, the orchard that is close to his home. “I like knowing where and how the foods I cook with are grown,” said Olbrantz, who said he prefers as a chef to focus on locally sourced and fresh ingredients.
“I use Michigan Honeycrisp apples because, as the name implies, they have a crisp, sweet flavor. They have a slight tartness, but are also really sweet. It’s just a great flavor,” Olbrantz added.
Rosalva Teftsis, general manager of Detroit’s Redsmoke Barbeque, said the restaurant gets its apples every Saturday from Eastern Market. Her favorites are Michigan’s Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples, which are paired in its homemade applesauce.
“They provide the perfect balance of sweet and tart flavors to accompany our smoked meats,” Teftsis said. “The Red Delicious has a mild sweetness, while the Granny Smith has a crisp bite. We use these varieties because they complement each other, flavor-wise, and they’re large and not as delicate as some other types. They hold up well.”
Karen Dybis is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.
Apple, Sausage and Cheese Strata
From “The Apple Cookbook,” Olwen Woodier
Use any thick-cut sliced bread for this baked dish. If the bread is very fresh, let the cubes sit out on a baking tray to dry. For the cheese, choose grated cheddar, mixed Mexican-style, or odds and ends on hand, even crumbled blue or feta. Mozzarella is not a good choice because it forms strands rather than melting into the layers. A strata like this can serve as a festive dinner or brunch side, or as a main dish with a salad or roasted vegetable.
4 sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1/4 medium fennel bulb, tough outer layers and basal core removed, grated on large
holes of box grater, or more to taste
2 medium apples ( ripe Granny Smith, Stayman, Fuji), peeled, cored, and diced
2 tablespoons snipped fresh fennel fronds or chopped fresh rosemary or fresh thyme
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf Italian or French (softcrust) bread, cut into
1/2-inch slices, then 1-inch pieces (5–6 cups)
2 cups grated or crumbled cheese of choice (except mozzarella)
4 large eggs
3 cups whole or low-fat milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Crumble in the sausages and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in the onion and fennel and cook for 5 minutes. Add the apples, fennel fronds, or rosemary or thyme and salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Spread half of the bread pieces in the prepared baking dish. Cover with half of the sausage mixture. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the top. Make another layer with the bread and top with the remaining sausage mixture.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then whisk in the milk. Pour over the bread and sausage mixture. Using the back of a serving spoon or a spatula, lightly press down on the strata. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cheese over the top. Let the strata sit at room temperature for 15 minutes so the bread can begin to soak up the liquids.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until puffed and golden.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 12 servings.
Per serving: 246 calories; 13 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 48 percent calories from fat); 18 g carbohydrates; 8 g sugar; 96 mg cholesterol; 463 mg sodium; 15 g protein; 2 g fiber.
Apple Gingered Fish
From the Michigan Apple Committee
1 pound orange roughy or salmon fillets
1/2 cup Michigan Apple Cider or Michigan Apple Juice
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
For the apple relish
1 cup diced, red Michigan Apples
1/2 cup diced mangos
1 sliced and quartered kiwi
1/4 cup sweet and sour sauce
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh gingerroot
Wash fish and cut into serving pieces. Combine Michigan Apple Cider, garlic and the 1/2 teaspoon ginger. Place cider mixture and fish in airtight container or plastic bag and refrigerate 1 hour.
While fish is marinating, prepare relish. In small bowl, combine relish ingredients. Cover and refrigerate.
Grill or broil fish until fish flakes and is done. Serve hot with Apple Relish. Servings: 4 serving.
Per serving (per 3 ounces fish and 1/2 cup relish): 150 calories; 1 g fat (0.1 g saturated fat; 6 percent calories from fat); 18 g carbohydrates; 14 g sugar; 23 mg cholesterol; 111 mg sodium; 20 g protein; 2 g fiber.
Apple and Cheese Quiche
From the Michigan Apple Committee
1 10-inch pie shell
1 3/4 cups shredded Swiss cheese
2 cups peeled, cubed tart Michigan apples*
1/4 cup minced shallots
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoon flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare pie shell and press into pie plate; sprinkle 1/2 of Swiss cheese in pie shell and bake 10 minutes on lowest rack of oven; cool.
In medium skillet, saute apples and shallots in butter until soft (about 8-10 minutes).
Stir in flour, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Spread apple mixture evenly in pie shell; sprinkle with remaining cheese. In separate glass bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half and salt. Place pie plate on lowest rack in oven; pour egg mixture over apples and cheese.
Bake until firm and knife comes out clean (about 60 minutes).
Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes.
Serve warm. Makes 6 servings.
*Suggested varieties: Empire, Jonamac, Ida Red
Recipe, submitted by Jennifer Vick of DeWitt, Michigan, was a winner in the 2009 Michigan Apple Committee online amateur recipe contest.
Per serving: 518 calories; 36 g fat (18 g saturated fat; 63 percent calories from fat); 32 g carbohydrates; 12 g sugar; 194 mg cholesterol; 686 mg sodium; 18 g protein; 3 g fiber.
Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Apples
From “The Apple Cookbook,” Olwen Woodier
This recipe is another favorite of Jim Law’s of Linden Vineyards. You can replace the butter with olive oil, but the flavor will not be quite as rich. The stuffing can also be used in split boneless chicken breasts, which you would bake for only 20 to 25 minutes.
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
2 medium apples (Jonagold, Stayman, Winesap, Fuji), peeled if desired, cored, and thinly sliced
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, made by processing 2 large slices stale bread
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried savory
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil, plus more if needed
4 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown mustard
Split the tenderloin almost in half lengthwise. Place it between two sheets of wax paper and pound it to about 1/2-inch thick.
Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the apples and onion and saute until lightly browned and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the breadcrumbs, marjoram and savory, and toss with the apple mixture until moistened through. Remove from the heat.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Season the inside of the tenderloin with the salt and pepper and spread the apple stuffing over the surface.
Roll the tenderloin lengthwise and tie with kitchen string. Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the teaspoon of oil and brown the pork on all sides, drizzling in a little more oil if necessary. Place in a baking dish.
To make the glaze, combine the honey, brown sugar, vinegar and mustard in a small bowl.
Pour the glaze over the tenderloin and bake for 45 minutes, basting with the glaze 3 or 4 times. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings.
Per serving: 362 calories; 11 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 27 percent calories from fat); 34 g carbohydrates; 24 g sugar; 110 mg cholesterol; 374 mg sodium; 34 g protein; 2 g fiber.
Phyllo Tarts with Caramelized Apples
From “The Apple Cookbook,” Olwen Woodier
One packet of phyllo contains two individually packaged rolls of dough. A single roll of phyllo will make 12 tarts, so you need to thaw only one of the individual packages. Allow a few hours for the dough to thaw completely in the refrigerator. Use cooking spray (butter or canola oil) instead of melted butter to moisten the layers quickly and neatly. Children attending cooking camps have made these tarts with ease.
1/2 cup brown or granulated sugar, plus more if needed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice or freshly grated or ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons butter
6 medium apples (Honeycrisp, Cameo, Stayman), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 individually packaged roll phyllo dough
Nonstick cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.
Combine the sugar, cinnamon and allspice in a small bowl. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, stirring to coat with the butter. Saute for 10 minutes, then sprinkle the sugar mixture over the apples, stirring to combine. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the apples give off a lot of juice, reduce the heat to low and cook until some of the juice evaporates, adding an extra tablespoon of sugar if necessary to thicken the mixture. Remove from the heat and let cool.
For the tart shells, remove the thawed phyllo from the refrigerator. Unroll on a plastic cutting board (the phyllo stays moister on a plastic surface than on wood). Cut through the thickness of all the sheets of dough to make three sections measuring 4 by 10 inches. Cut each long section in half crosswise. You now have six sections, each measuring 4 by 5 inches.
Take three or four sheets of dough from each section and pat into the muffin cups. Spray lightly with the nonstick spray. Arrange three or four more sheets across the bottom sheets in the opposite direction and spray again. Arrange three or four more sheets in the opposite direction and spray again. Repeat until all the dough sections have been used. You want at least three layers of four sheets or four layers of three sheets per tart.
Fill the phyllo shells with the cooled caramelized apple slices and bake for 15 minutes. Take a peek after 10 minutes, and if the edges of the tarts are browning too quickly, cover loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper and continue to bake until the filling is hot and bubbly. Yield: 12 individual tarts
Per serving: 173 calories; 5 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 26 percent calories from fat); 32 g carbohydrates; 18 g sugar; 10 mg cholesterol; 125 mg sodium; 2 g protein; 3 g fiber.