Fall Abundance – and a Great Recipe for Apple Cake

Apples in the evening sunSo many reasons why I love this simply gorgeous time of year!  But aaaghhh! So much to do! …last-minute scramble to button things up for winter, can and freeze surplus produce, get the garlic in the ground, don’t forget fall cover crops…

Seems like everything is ready at once: corn, tomatoes, green beans, beets … and all those greens & brassicas are really coming into their prime with the cooler temps. I came across a great recipe for minestrone soup this morning at one of my favorite blog sites: Cookus Interuptus. It uses a little bit of everything you might have along with some kidney beans simmered in some soup stock. Pretty darn easy, and that’s what we’re having tonight.

If you haven’t watched the videos over at Cookus Interuptus, check them out. The characters in these mini-soaps are real people – and they’re cooking and eating real food and trying to make a video while constantly being interrupted – and maybe it’s just because I relate so much that I laugh through every episode and am then inspired to make something new and fresh for dinner, that I am totally hooked. (I also watched their video on making homemade dog food this morning, and guess what, my mutts got a little fresh chard, carrots, and chicken livers mixed in with their gruel for breakfast. Barkley and Ginger give the video the two paws up, tail wag, tongue-hanging-out-for-more vote of approval, and Guy Noir, the cat, concurs with a silent nod, which, for a very demanding cat, is significant.)

I’ve got a lot on my agenda this week, so this post will be short (ha!). First, thanks to everyone who supported the Harvest Celebration Farm Tour last weekend. Personally, I volunteered at the Freedom Farm (a horse ranch & equestrian center), and we had great weather and a fantastic turnout.  Very fun to see so many people into buying local, which has truly become a movement in our community!

Canned TomatoesThis week, I’m getting the garlic beds ready for planting, which will take place over the next few days (later post on that procedure!) – and I hope to get some apples in the canner, because that is something we use all winter in breads and cakes and pies and just plain. The jars are starting to stack up on the shelves, and they are absolutely beautiful!

We have an abundance of apples every year (5 trees, mostly Gravensteins). I am not sure how old the trees are, but our house is dated around 1900; our place was part of an old dairy farm homestead. Last year, we had so many apples, I put them in a wheelbarrow by the side of the road with a “Free” sign on them, and they quickly disappeared. This year, we don’t have nearly as many, and all I can figure is that we had such a cold spring with lots of wind and rain, that maybe the blossoms didn’t get pollinated. I remember feeling sorry for the bees and hoping they would find our trees.  Even so, there are still lots and plenty to make into pies, cider, cakes, sauces, and to share.

So without further ado – here is a pretty quick & easy apple cake recipe. I modified it from the King Arthur Flour site, which has a ton of recipes on it and is a very fun site to browse through (but somewhat dangerous if you have a fetish for cool kitchen gadgets & supplies that you can’t find elsewhere that make you look like a real kitchen pro!)

Basic Instructions: All you do is make a very thick cake batter, pour it in the bottom of a buttered cast-iron skillet (or other pan), and top it with sliced apples that you’ve tossed with a little lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon or whatever combination of apple pie spices you like, mixed with a little apple cider. Sprinkle it with crystallized sugar if you want to be fancy.  Bake until done. It makes the whole house smell wonderful. It is easy to imagine grandmas baking this cake in a cast-iron woodstove.

(BTW – I used our windfall Gravensteins. I quartered them, cut out the stems and seeds, and sliced them thick. I didn’t bother peeling them, because the whole peeling, coring, slicing thing is what prevents me from using the apples as much as I’d like, and mechanical gadgets create too much waste in my opinion. And guess what? They’re great with the peels left on! Oh – and since we have so many apples, I frequently make apple juice or a combination of apple-carrot juice with our juicer. So I made up a little extra apple juice and used that as the liquid in the recipe. It tends to be a little denser as the pulp isn’t completely removed, and the flavor is just oh-SO-intense!)

Detailed Instructions:

Skillet Apple Cake is fast & easy!Foolproof Skillet Apple Cake

Pan Prep:

Butter a 9-inch cast-iron skillet or pan

Apple Prep:

Wash & slice 5-8 medium-sized apples ; toss them with a little lemon juice

Sugar & Spice Prep:

¼ c brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon + ¼ tsp cloves + ¼ tsp allspice, or combination of your choice
¼ tsp salt (optional)

Mix up and then add

3 T apple juice

Stir this into the apples

Cake Batter Prep:

Mix dry ingredients:

1 1/3 c flour (I grind my own flour, so mine was a blend of fresh ground wheat and triticale – which is what I had on hand)
¼ c sugar (I use apple cider for the liquid, so you don’t need much)
¼ c non-instant milk powder (since I was out of milk and didn’t have time to go to the dairy)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

Mix wet ingredients:

6 T butter, melted
2/3 c. apple cider (the official recipe calls for milk)
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg

Stir the wet into the dry and pour into the skillet.

Top with apples – dump them in, or, since I was trying to make a photo op, arrange them on top & sprinkle with crystallized sugar.

Bake at 350 for 50 or 60 minutes.

Slice of Skillet Apple Cake
Skillet Apple Cake - fast, easy, and easy to eat!

Or – like I ended up doing – bake for 40 minutes, find out you have to go somewhere, crank the oven up to 400 very briefly, turn it completely off & leave, come back an hour later and walk into a house smelling like apples and cinnamon, open the oven door, and voila! Beautiful apple cake!

Seems pretty foolproof to me!

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