as each day passes, i embrace fall a bit more graciously. i remember my father, who, each year, welcomed fall with open arms. i would help him rake large piles of leaves and was amply rewarded when he let me jump in them. he’d yell and cheer me on as i obliterated all the work we’d done to tidy the yard in the first place. he never complained that he had to rake it all again and would insist that i go in and warm up, instead of helping him finish the task (i’m sure he also thought doing it himself was a heck of a lot faster).
my dad loved to cook, but i think he loved to eat even more. as any good New Englander would say, i always thought it was wicked cool when he would drive us out to the orchards in Bolton or Stow, Massachusetts to pick apples. in retrospect, the apple picking was a pretense; he was really after apple cider donuts and a few generous cups of steaming apple cider. oh, we’d get the apples, but they were tertiary to the other goodies procured at the farms. driving home, the sun would reflect on leaves ablaze with color: orange, red, burgundy, yellow. and sitting in the back seat, i felt content.
i can calculate precisely when i stumbled upon this recipe by the condition of the cookbook that houses it: the cookbook binding, nibbled on by my basset hound, Dewey, when he was a puppy. the pages tarnished from Dewey’s teething and from decades of use. Dewey and my dad have been gone for many years, but they both had an affinity for apple crisp (or for page 280, where the recipe can be found).
a wicked-simple variation based on a recipe from the vegetarian epicure
Alex in the U.K. gathering his Bramleys
5 – 6 medium-size Bramley (or other tart) apples
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup unbleached organic flour
1/2 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
- preheat oven to 350F.
- whisk all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
- cut the butter into the dry ingredients, until well combined.
consistency of topping, prebaking
- peel the apples, and slice thinly.
- place the apples only in a round casserole dish.
- sprinkle the mixture over the apples; don’t combine the apples and the mixture.
- cover and bake for 35 or 40 minutes.
- remove the cover, and bake for another 15 or 20 minutes, until the topping is crisp (hence the name) and golden brown.
serve warm, topped with whipped cream, ice cream, or half and half. it’s especially lovely when accompanied by profoundly insightful (and very funny) composer and folk singer Cheryl Wheeler’s When Fall Comes to New England.