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Apple Pie Goes Savory

Food Olivia 4weeks ago (09-24) 17Views

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Apple Pie Goes Savory

The air is crisp and fresh. The mid-September sun melts over the changing leaf cover on the hillsides with a poignant light, unique to this time of year in the Northeast. The shift of the autumnal equinox is palpable.聽

This is truly one of the best times of year to be in New England. And if the stunning array of fall foliage heading toward its peak weren鈥檛 enough, the abundant harvest from a wealth of local farms evokes a heartfelt comfort, reminiscent of grandma鈥檚 kitchen鈥攐f glass jars of canned pickles, tomatoes, fruits, and jams lined up on pantry shelves; of hot, steaming bread being pulled from ovens; of freshly baked pies cooling in the window.聽

For those who love to cook, the offerings of autumn can bring on a fond nostalgia for those classic, down-home recipes鈥攁nd might even inspire us to switch those up a bit by adding a creative spin of our own.聽

What better subject to start with than the ever faithful apple?

Come autumn, apples hang abundantly from groaning branches at local orchards, ready for the picking. They spill out of baskets in all their aromatic, ruddy, red, yellow, and green-cheeked glory at roadside farm-stands; beckon from heavy wooden crates at every market, the smell of fresh-pressed cider thick in the air.聽

Apple Pie Goes Savory Come autumn, apples hang abundantly from groaning branches at local orchards, ready for the picking. (Zoom Team/Shutterstock)

With a variety of tart, sweet, mellow, and bright flavors to tempt the taste buds, and health benefits on par with culinary adaptability, who can resist?聽

A Brief History: How Apples Got to the New World

But first, let鈥檚 take a giant leap back in time to 17th-century America.

The arduous sea voyage of the Pilgrims has ended on the coasts of New England, and the challenges they face are great and numerous. Less significant of these, but worthy of mention, given our topic of pursuit, is the discovery that the only apple native to this land is the tiny, often tart crab apple. Though a perfectly fine fruit in its own right, the crab apple alone simply would not suffice.聽

By some foresight and fortune, the European settlers who followed some years later brought with them favored fruit seeds of their homeland鈥攊ncluding, thankfully, apple seeds (or pips, as they were called).聽

Yet still another challenge lay ahead. After the trees the colonists so painstakingly planted reached maturity, it was with much dismay that they found they bore little fruit鈥攄ue to the complete absence of honeybees in the New World!聽

It would take several more years, and a shipment of honeybee colonies from England, before the colonists could breathe a collective sigh of relief. The busy pollinators set to work in swarms, and finally, by the mid 1640s, the culmination of all efforts finally came to fruition: well-established, productive apple orchards spread throughout New England.

Some 160 years later, John Chapman, fondly known to most Americans as Johnny Appleseed, began his famous trek through Massachusetts and parts of the Midwest and Southeast, a journey that would last 40 years and cover a full 100,000 square miles.

Apple Pie Goes Savory Johnny Appleseed. (Public Domain)

Following his dream that no one in the land should ever go hungry again, he preached the gospel and planted apple trees for every person he came across. Pouches of seeds he collected from cider mills were handed to all brave souls heading west, a mission given him, he would say, by God.聽

Though the trees that grew from these seeds were a variety not necessarily pleasing in edible quality, the legend of Johnny Appleseed, in a sense, is one of many historical portrayals of the apple as a symbol of life. 聽

A Savory Twist on a Classic

Of all apple recipes invoked by this season, apple pie most surely holds its prominence. But with a plethora of sweet pie recipes readily available, I took a less traveled path and chose to create something savory.

This rustic, skillet-baked pie draws on the classic combination of apples, onions, and pork.聽I opted to use Honeycrisp apples, not only for their perfect sweet-tart flavor balance, but also because they hold their shape well when baked. The pork comes in the form of thick-slab smoked bacon鈥攚hich adapts better to pie filling鈥攃hopped up and lightly browned in a cast-iron skillet. Sliced onions follow, cooked in the bacon drippings until browned and glassy.

Everything then comes together beautifully in a single all-butter crust, tucked into the same cast-iron skillet and baked until golden brown.

All the while, fresh-pressed apple cider simmers down into syrup on the stove. After the pie comes out of the oven, wedges of well-aged cheddar cheese and a drizzle of that cider-syrup add the crowning touch.

Serve this delicious, sweet-and-savory apple pie with a side salad鈥攍ate-crop arugula is a great choice for a tangy, peppery flavor component鈥攆or a perfect autumn meal.聽

Cardinale Montano is a freelance writer living in West Stockbridge, Mass. She shares her creativity with good friends, family, and eager learners, and celebrates daily the blessings of nature in the beautiful Berkshires. She is the founder and designer at聽LineflaxAndRoving.com


RECIPE: Rustic Skillet Apple Pie With Bacon, Cheddar, and Cider Syrup


Focus News: Apple Pie Goes Savory

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