Tag Archives: apples

The best homemade apple pie ever

I finally got around to baking an apple pie with the last of my homegrown Granny Smith apples. If you try this recipe, you’ll probably never want to eat an apple pie from the store again. There is no comparison.

There is nothing like a homemade apple pie fresh from the oven.


1 C white whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 T sugar

1/3 C + 1T shortening (I use Crisco plus a little butter)

2-3 T cold water

Mix dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender, cut in the shortening until thoroughly blended. Add water with stirring until dough forms a ball and sticks to fork. Roll out dough on a floured pastry board. Fold in quarters and transfer to a 9″ pie pan. Unfold the crust and flute/crimp the edges.


6 apples (Granny Smith, Northern Spy, Wealthy, or other tart baking apple)

1 T lemon juice

1/2 C sugar

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp mace

Peel and core the apples, and cut into eighths. Squeeze lemon juice over apples to prevent browning. Mix sugar and spices and sprinkle over apples. Put sweetened apple slices into pie crust.

Crumb Topping

3/4 C white flour

1/3 C brown sugar

6 T butter

Blend topping ingredients together until crumbly and spread over the top of the apples. Bake pie at 400 degrees F for 35-40 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, or Vermont cheddar cheese.

Be sure to check out my newspaper column that’s coming out in the Huntington Beach Independent this Thursday. It’s on heirloom apples. See it at www.hbindependent.com/opinion.

Gary Paul Nabhan, one of the founders of Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) has declared 2010 as the Year of the Heirloom Apple to publicize the decline in our national heritage of apple varieties.

Sadly, out of America’s 15,000 historic apple varieties, only about 3,500 are still commercially available. Like most endangered foods, we can save them by eating them. Create demand for heirloom apples by seeking them out and buying them. If you can find Wealthy or Northern Spy apples, they make fantastic pies. I speak from experience about the Northern Spies, but I have yet to find any Wealthy apples to try.

If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend “Renewing America’s Food Traditions: Saving and savoring the continent’s most endangered foods.” The book lists 108 hard-to-find apple varieties that are worthy of searching out.

Look for heirloom apples at your farmer’s market or local U-pick orchards. They’re still out there. Go find them!

Harvest Monday, Sept. 20, 2010

Night critters seem to be raiding my garden. The ripe tomatoes are disappearing, or remaining on the vines half eaten. And I could have sworn I had more apples than what remain on the tree. Time to set the trap again. With such a small garden, I count every fruit and vegetable and battle the wild things for them.

This day's harvest of Granny Smith apples went into an apple brown betty.

The tomato harvest is an odd mix of Mortgage Lifters and the occasional yellow pear, Better Boy, Roma, and Early Girl.

The Mortgage Lifters are nice, meaty, deep pink tomatoes, but the flavor is nothing special.

I harvested the first of my homegrown gingerroot this week to put into guava jam. I’m really pleased that my attempt to grow ginger worked. I just put a grocery store gingerroot into a pot of dirt and seven months later I’m getting enough gingerroot to harvest. My plan is to keep the pot growing all year long. It should be able to supply all of my modest needs for fresh gingerroot.

I made a second batch of pineapple guava jam, using fresh gingerroot and a Granny Smith apple from my garden. The citrus and spices shown here are store-bought, as I'm between crops on my citrus trees.

Here’s my harvest for the week ending Sept. 19, 2010. This was the last of my lemons and oranges until the next crop ripens.


2 lbs 15 oz. Apples, Granny Smith

6 oz. Lemon, Meyer

3 oz. Orange, Valencia

1.5 Strawberries

Subtotal fruit 3 lbs 9.5 oz.


1.5 oz. Gingerroot

12 oz. Green beans, Blue Lake

2 lbs 12 oz. Tomatoes

Subtotal vegetables 3 lbs 9.5 oz.

TOTAL PRODUCE 7 lbs 3 oz. plus 8 eggs

If you had a harvest this week, visit Daphne’s Dandelions and post your results.

Harvest Monday, Sept. 13 2010

Another week has rolled around, and it’s been a productive one in the garden, despite the cooling weather.

It's early September in the garden. The green beans are getting powdery mildew and I've picked a LOT of dead and dying lower leaves off the tomatoes.

This is the entire harvest from our Fuji apple tree. It's still a baby tree and not productive yet, but the apples are great.

This is the first basket of apples from the dwarf Granny Smith. Nothing dwarf about these apples though. There are still a couple dozen left on the tree.

Granny Smiths are my husband's favorite eating apple, but they're too tart for me. They make perfect pies, and that's what I do with most of them. I wish you could smell our kitchen.

This harvest of komatsuna (Japanese mustard greens) and bell peppers went into a stirfry.

I’m giving my vote of favorite new vegetable this year to Green Boy hybrid komatsuna from Kitazawa Seed Company. They’re very productive and really make a great addition to a stirfry. They’re better than bok choy in productivity, with a slightly stronger mustard green bite than bok choy. Delicious!

This is the entire harvest of Russett potatoes. One potato sprouted in my bag, so I just planted it. This was what I got, about double or triple the volume of what I put into the raised bed.

Our pumpkins and squash are producing nothing but male blossoms, so that's what I'm harvesting.

The squash blossoms and green onion went into scrambled eggs. The potatoes and more onion became homefries. And a Fuji apple and a couple of strawberries were our fruit for breakfast. All home grown, even the eggs!

This golf ball in the nest box needs a bit of explanation.

Our three silly hens all use the same nest box, ignoring the other two that are adjacent. When I peeped in and saw Henny Penny sitting on TOP of Chicken Little in the same nest box, I decided that they needed a box that was a bit separated from the others. I put a cardboard box in the corner of the coop opposite the preferred nest box and added some straw. They ignored it. So I put in a golf ball to give them the idea that they could use this box when the preferred nest box is occupied. Now they all want to use this one. Chickens! Not the brightest bulbs on the back porch.

Everyone is probably getting tired of seeing tomatoes, so I put this day's harvest at the end. I'm glad I have the Mortgage Lifters, because they're producing the bulk of the tomato harvest now. They're really productive, with each tomato weighing about half a pound.

And now, on to the week’s harvest.


11 oz. Apples, Fuji

3 lbs Apples, Granny Smith

0.5 oz. Strawberries

Subtotal Fruit 3 lbs 11.5 oz


4 oz. Bell Peppers

5 oz. Chard

6 oz. Komatsuna

2.5 oz. Onion, Green

2 oz. Onion, Red

6 oz. Potatoes, Russett

1 oz. Squash blossoms

6 lbs 3.5 oz. Tomatoes (mostly Mortgage Lifters)

Subtotal veggies 8 lbs 1.5 oz.

TOTAL HARVEST 11 lbs 13 oz produce plus 10 eggs

If you had a harvest, visit Daphne’s Dandelions and post your results.

BTW, I was up until nearly 3 am working on a database for my yearly harvest. So far, I’ve harvested 164 lbs of produce and 404 eggs this year. Not bad for such a tiny urban homestead.

Sweaty Sunday May 30 2010

Phew, I worked in my garden until it got dark today. My last post on how much is undone in the garden embarrassed me enough that I toiled from sunup to sundown today. Got a LOT done, including resting in front of the telly during the heat of the afternoon. It got up into the low 80s out there today.

First of all, I planted my new Haas avocado tree. Although it didn’t take very long, I consider that my major accomplishment of the day given how long the tree is likely to last. I have great hopes for this little dear as it has already set seven avocados. That’s two more than my mature Littlecado, which has five on it this year. I’m hoping that Littlecado, which isn’t supposed to need another tree for pollination, will enjoy having the Haas nearby and will set more fruit in the future. So far it has been a pathetic producer.

After that, I raked up fallen leaves from the Littlecado avocado and composted them. Trimmed the ferns and composted them too. Watered both compost bins. It’s time to take some compost out of the bottom trap door, but I didn’t get around to that today.

I fertilized all of the fruit trees in the back yard except the avocados, which don’t need it. Hmmm. Well, that’s not exactly right. I always plant with E.B. Stone Organic Sure Start fertilizer because it contains beneficial soil microbes and nutrients to get the plants off to a healthy start. So the Haas avocado tree got Sure Start to get it going. Then I watered all of my trees and the flower border. I admired my dwarf Granny Smith apple in particular. It has nearly 3 dozen apples on it this year. Don’t know if they’ll all make it to harvest time in September or not, but so far they look good. The Fuji seems to have set only one apple and the Gala none. Nothing from the Red Flame grapes either. I’m hoping for both grapes and Gala apples next year as it will be their third year in the ground.

I took down the string and wooden trellises from the spent sugar snap peas (I pulled the pea vines, which were covered in powdery mildew, and put them in the trash two days ago) and put up a new string trellis for my pole beans. Planted 60 Blue Lake Pole Beans and 10 Scarlet Runner Beans.

I harvested the last two Candid Charm cauliflower heads to make room in the raised beds for some poor stunted seedlings that I started from seed back in February. They should have gone into the ground before this, but space is just now opening up in the raised beds. Planted 2 Black Beauty Eggplants, 2 Green Savoy Cabbages, 1 Black Krim Tomato, 1 Mortgage Lifter Tomato, and 4 Brandywine Tomatoes.

We ate the last of our Florida Prince peaches for breakfast today in pancakes, along with the first tiny harvest of blueberries and the day’s harvest of strawberries.

Over the past three years I’ve reworked my garden so that it will produce more fruits and vegetables. This is the summer that it is really starting to pay off. The amounts of my harvests aren’t large, but I love the variety of produce that I’m getting from our small yard. It’s so much fun playing with growing new varieties, and seeing what will produce in pots and planters as well as in the ground. Happy gardening to you all.

Harvest Monday in southern California, Nov. 30

December is when our citrus begin to ripen. Here is a navel orange.

OK, technically, this is Wednesday Dec. 2, but I’m really running behind because of the Thanksgiving holiday and a particularly difficult column I was writing for the newspaper. My husband began the column (we co-write it), leaving it to me to do the research and interviews. That particular column took about three times longer than our normal columns. It will be out Dec. 3, and you can see it by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post.

The last Granny Smith apples from my tree for this year

On to Harvest Monday. Daphne at Daphne’s Dandelions has a Harvest Monday on her blog. If you harvested anything from your garden in the past week, go to her blog on Monday and post it through Mr. Linky. It can help bring others to your site as well. Daphne keeps careful records, weighing everything and noting the monetary value of her harvest. Her record-keeping skills are awesome.

The apples went into a pie crust with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and the juice of Meyer lemon

I’m doing good to even note that I picked something. I have a Kew Five-Year Garden Diary, and this is the first year that I’ve continued making entries beyond April. This year, I’m still keeping records–such as they are–in December. And thanks to this blog, I’m doing better at recording my harvests in photos as well.

Topped with a crumb topping, this was an awesome pie.

I could have harvested more from my garden last week, but there was a complication. In order to write about the topic in our newspaper columns, I signed up for a CSA box (community supported agriculture). I got my first box of produce last week, and it has filled my refrigerator. This means that I picked less from my own garden. Look at all that food! Turnips, beets, a butternut squash, sweet potatoes, two head of lettuce, green beans, carrots, apples and Fuji persimmons, all local and all organic.

All of this produce was in my CSA box. It filled my refrigerator!

 Here is my harvest from last week from my own garden, which included what I picked for Thanksgiving.

1 navel orange, the first of the crop

2 Meyer lemons, the first of the crop

6 Granny Smith apples, the last from the tree

3 bell peppers

3 green onions



Only one out of three of my raised beds is in full production. The one on the left just got planted two weeks ago, and the one on the right still has bell peppers in it from summer.

Now that I’ve seen Daphne’s good records, I’m going to try even harder in 2010 to keep track of my harvest and expenses.

(To read more of Lou Murray’s environmental writing, see her weekly column, Natural Perspectives, in the Huntington Beach Independent at www.hbindependent.com/blogs_and_columns/)

Cinnamon apples for Thanksgiving

Williams family holiday dinner 1952; I"m on the left next to my mother and baby brother.

My Grandmother Williams made cinnamon apples for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and served them chilled in syrup. The translucent cooked apples were sugary sweet, super cinnamony, and beautifully red.  They were a perfect foil to savory turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, and I looked forward to them every holiday when I was growing up in Indiana. 

I’ve never seen them outside our family, and haven’t known anyone else to make them. Have you ever had them? There are a number of recipes for them on the internet, so someone must make them.

The recipe was simple. Peel and core a half-dozen whole cooking apples. Put them in a pan with an 8 oz. bag of cinnamon Redhots (made by the Ferrara Pan Company–may also be called cinnamon imperials by other companies) and enough water to cover the apples half way up. Simmer until done, turning the apples gently to coat and color both sides while they’re cooking. Chill the apples in the syrup and serve the next day.

MacIntosh apples

I haven’t made cinnamon apples for years because neither my husband or my son care for them. But I’m feeling nostagic this year and wanted to make them. At the grocery, I looked for cinnamon redhots and couldn’t find them. I was surprised. Redhots are an old candy that dates back to the 1930s. I wondered if the company had gone out of business.

A quick Google search turned up the company alive and functioning in Illinois. They still make redhots, but their store locator didn’t turn up any stores in Orange County, CA (where I live) that sell redhots. Maybe they are more of a Midwest thing.

I did find this fascinating video showing how the redhot candies are made. http://www.ferrarapan.com/html/rh_tour.html

The ingredients are simple enough–sugar, corn syrup, red food coloring, and probably cinnamon oil. No worries, I think I can recreate the cinnamon apples using sugar to make a simple syrup, plus cinnamon sticks and red food coloring.

I bought a half dozen MacIntosh apples and am going to give it a try. I’m assuming that either MacIntosh or Rome Beauty were the types of apples that my grandmother used, because those were the types of cooking apples available then.

There is a larger variety of apples to chose from at grocery stores today than when I was growing up, but they’re mainly for eating fresh. I learned the hard way to use only cooking apples for cooking. In my younger years, I foolishly tried cooking with Red Delicious apples, but they just fall apart and their flavor doesn’t hold up to cooking.

Granny Smiths would have been another good choice. I’m down to my last few Granny Smiths from our semi-dwarf tree in back, but they’re going into a crumb-topped apple pie that I’ll make later today. Most of my Thanksgiving cooking is going to get done tonight, as I’m leaving shortly for our Thanksgiving dinner for Corps Members at the Orange County Conservation Corps (www.hireyouth.org/).

I’ll update this post later to add photos and let you know how the cinnamon apples turned out. One thing is for sure. The house is going to smell great while those apples are cooking!

I made a syrup from 2C water, 3/4 C sugar, one sliced Meyer lemon, 1 stick cinnamon and 2 tsp whole allspice.

OK, here’s the scoop on my cinnamon apples. I peeled and cored the six apples while cooking 2 C of water and 3/4C sugar in a deep skillet. Woe is me, I had only one cinnamon stick in the pantry, so I put that into the skillet along with 2 tsp whole allspice. I think that box of allspice had belonged to my mother, so they’re probably as old as the La Brea tar pits. I tasted the syrup and it seemed to lack something (flavor?), so I picked a Meyer lemon from the backyard, the first of the season, sliced it, and added it to the syrup along with 12 drops of red food coloring. Then I added the apples and simmered them for about 15-20 minutes.

Apples are supposed to cook in the sugar syrup until tender--these turned to mush

Well, four out of six MacIntosh apples fell apart. Undaunted, I just mashed them all up with a spoon. I thought I’d make chunky, spicy applesauce instead. It tasted pretty good, but then I decided that the addition of a cup of cranberries would make it even better.

Cranberries need oranges, so I picked a navel orange from my backyard, again the first of the season, and grated the peel into the sauce. I just finished cooking the cranberry/applesauce and WOW. I’ll probably never be able to duplicate it, but I think I have a hit.

Add grated orange peel and cook the cranberries, apples, and syrup together after removing the spices and lemon.

Here are the ingredients. While the content of this blog is copyrighted, feel free to copy this recipe for personal use.

Holiday Spiced Cranberry/applesauce

6 cooking apples, peeled and cored

1 stick cinnamon

2 tsp whole allspice

2 C water

3/4 C sugar

1 Meyer lemon, sliced

12 drops red food coloring (optional)

1 C whole cranberries

grated peel of one orange

Put the spices and lemon into a cheesecloth bag to make removal easier (sure wish I’d thought of that BEFORE I started). Cook until the fruit sauce is thick, remove cheesecloth bag, and pour into a hot canning jar. Let stand until it reaches room temperature, then chill overnight. Serve with turkey or pork roast. Makes 5 cups.

Finished cranberry applesauce

Process this in a water bath if you want to store a batch on the shelf, but we’ll be eating all of ours tomorrow.

Making prickly pear/apple butter

I just returned to Huntington Beach from a fabulous trip to Monterey with my camera club, the Photographic Society of Orange County. We had a great time on our five-day trip, taking photos and seeing the sights.

ag venture toursI arranged for an agriculture tour for those who wanted to go with Evan Oakes of Agventuretours.com. We thoroughly enjoyed our half-day tour of the Salinas Valley, where most of America’s salad greens are grown. I’m going to get a newspaper column and more than one blog post out of this wonderful experience. Here is info in case you are up that way and want to take a tour.

Ag Venture Tours & Consulting

831-761-8463 Phone

evan@agventuretours.comripe prickly pear

One of the many things that Evan showed us was a field of prickly pear cactus that had apples and prickly pears more fruits on them than I’ve ever seen on prickly pear cactus. Evan pointed out that the ripe fruits are rolled to knock off all of the spines before they go to the grocery stores. At a farmer’s market, I touched one and it was as smooth as a baby’s bottom. OK, maybe as smooth as one with a diaper rash, but it was not at all prickly. So I bought four, intending to make prickly pear jelly when I got home.

fruit in potI knew I needed pectin, which is found in large quantities in apples, so I picked a half dozen organic Granny Smith apples from my tree in the backyard. I quartered the prickly pears and cut the apples into eighths, cooking them with just enough water to cover until they were really tender.

 stewed fruit in colanderI put the cooked fruit through my colander, which I inherited from my Mom. It must be 70 years old. My original plan was to make jelly, but that would have meant composting all that nice fruit pulp. I decided to make prickly pear/apple butter instead.






apple butter finshed

Finished apple butter in sterile jars

I cooked the pulp with organic brown sugar and spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and mace) until it sheeted off a spoon, then packed it into sterile jelly jars.


The spices overwhelmed the mild flavor of the prickly pears, but it was fabulous on some toast. I may try more prickly pears, fewer apples, and no spice next time to make jelly. I don’t know though. This fruit butter is pretty darn good.

6 apples

4 prickly pears

water to cover

1.5 cups of organic brown sugar

3 tsp ground cinnamon

1.5 tsp ground cloves

0.5 tsp ground allspice

0.5 tsp ground nutmeg

0.5 tsp ground mace

(To read more of Lou Murray’s environmental writing, see her weekly column, Natural Perspectives, in the Huntington Beach Independent at www.hbindependent.com, under columnists.)