By Kevin Williams
As summer winds down one of the rituals on Amish, and other, farms is the harvest and enjoyment of apples. Orchards are heavy with fat, juicy apples of all varieties that are then turned into ciders, sauces, pies, and other desserts. Or, of course, just eaten directly off the tree, a crisp crunch signaling the fragrant deliciousness of fall.
Let's check in with Grace Schlabach, Amish owner of an apple orchard in Lyndonville, New York. Grace Schlabach’s family runs Schlabach’s Nursery, which ships out more than 50 varieties of heirloom apple trees all over the country. She talks about the community's affinity for apples and some of her favorite varieties:
"This is an area known for its plentiful apple orchards. Popular apple varieties grown here include golden delicious, McIntosh, Ginger Gold, JonaGold, Gala, and Empire. The Empire apple is New York’s state apple and a hybrid of the red delicious and McIntosh variety," Grace says.
“Apples are our specialty,” she said of the nursery, which her family established in Ohio in 1991. “After we came here, we had more land. Our nursery fits in nicely because we get to interact with people developing new varieties of apples. We also do test-growing for Cornell University which complements our pursuits nicely.”
Apples are such a staple of this settlement, according to Schlabach, that a lot of local people can their own applesauce and enjoy delicious home-pressed cider in the fall. Apples are also an important baking ingredient in pies, cakes, bars, and dumplings. Frequently, sliced fresh apples are on the menu at mealtime. Some families also dry apples. “And what is better than spicy apple butter on freshly baked bread?” she said. Apples are so popular here that sometimes fresh apple butter is served instead of the traditional peanut butter spread after church services.
Apples are also used frequently to make homemade applesauce, apple pie filling, and apple dumplings. Schlabach said that many Amish cooks in the community like to halve and core apples, add some spices, put a dough around the apple, then freeze them. When they want fresh apple dumplings, all they do is thaw and bake them. The Amish of Lyndonville also freeze and can a lot of homemade cider.
“Gala apples press out really nicely,” she said. Apples are also featured prominently in the important potlucks and after-church meals.
“We frequently have apple slices to pass around at church. Sometimes when we have carry-in lunches we’ll have a platter full of apple slices and a big toteful of apple slices for everyone to enjoy.”
And how about the problem of keeping sliced apples from turning an unappetizing brown after sitting out and being passed around?
“Certain kinds of apples brown easily” she said. “So part of it depends on what kind you use, but if appearance is important, then dip the apples in a solution of a few drops of lemon in water. The citric acid will keep it from getting brown.
Schlabach likes to peel her apples with a cranked apple peeler and then use a corer that works by pressing down on the top.
“Those are nice. We use those a lot.”
And she described her favorite way to fix apples as a snack.
“Any meal or coffeebreak is enhanced with a large plate of slices of apples, oranges, bananas, kiwi, raw pineapple, and grapes (as the center). There is more awareness of sugarless eating, and any host should make this possible for the guests who are invited. The more you do to an apple, the less healthy it may become.”
Let's look at some favorite recipes that are beginning to show up in Amish kitchens right about now!
AMISH APPLE GRUNT: This is a favorite and a classic, click here for the recipe!
GLORIA'S GLAZED DUTCH APPLE PIE: This recipe comes from the Amish Cook herself! Click here.
AMISH SOUR CREAM APPLE PIE: Mmmmm, this might be my favorite, just a classic apple pie. Click here.
AMISH BAKED APPLE PUDDING: Yum, I remember having this, just a super dessert! Click here.
HOMEMADE APPLE BARS: Click here for this late-summer apple season favorite!
CLASSIC DUTCH APPLE PIE: Click here to enjoy
SPECIAL RECIPE: APPLE PUDDING CAKE - This recipe is an amazing tradition among many Amish, yum, it's awesome!
- APPLE PUDDING CAKE
- Serves 14 to 16
- This cake can be served immediately or after cooling, and it’s good plain or with vanilla ice cream.
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1½ cups vegetable oil
- 3 cups flour
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 cups diced apples (see Note below)
- ½ cup raisins (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9 by 13-inch pan and set aside.
- Mix together the eggs, oil, flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl until well blended. Add the apples and the raisins. The batter will be dough-like, and it may be necessary to knead in the apples and raisins to fully incorporate them. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the edges are firm.
- Note: Any variety of apple will work fine, but slightly tart apples will lend more flavor to the cake.