Monday, October 02, 2006

Apple Chips

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This past weekend, surrounded by mountains screaming color, D and I headed upstate with some friends to camp. As we have learned from past fall foliage camping years, no trip in the creeping fall days is complete without some apple picking (as well as apple cider and apple donuts).

We ate more than our fill, testing the varietal that would win our hearts and make it into our oversized ½ peck to return to the city. We picked rotten ones from the ground and threw them into the high reaches of trees, attempting to knock loose a prized specimen. We made running high jumps into the branches grasping a seemingly perfect morsel—only to have hopes dashed and eyes splashed with rotten juices. And in the over exuberance of finding a tree of Red Delicious full of fruit, we even came branch to arm with a healthy dose of poison ivy (though none has broken through yet, fingers crossed).

There are few things that feel more fall or are as delicious as a freshly picked apple. And there are few things more rewarding than admiring one’s gathering skills with a bushel of rubies stacked high in the kitchen.

But the bushel sits and the mind must wander into what to do with so many apples. Last night it was braised pork chops in rum cider with apple slices (made too late and eaten too hungerly for a picture). This morning I called upon my days in the third grade for inspiration...

My third grade teacher is what we used to refer to as a “nature freak.” Strange for us suburban kids to find someone so caught up in nature— she once yelled at a classmate of mine because the girl stepped on an ant—“how would you like to be that ant?!” Well, it’s dead now, so we wouldn’t thank you.

But there were some great teachings, most now forgotten, that lay between Pioneer Days (where we dressed like Little House in the Prairie, went to a neighboring school, “hunted” and ate venison stew, churned butter and home schooled our “children”), candle making and Apple Days (where we went apple picking and sat for 2 days peeling, chopping and slicing apples for apple sauce and strung ribbons of apple slices that dried into apple chips in our windows).

So this morning as I looked to our fresh apples I remembered the apple chips. And even faster than stringing them into the window waiting two weeks for them to dry, is the almost instant gratification of drying them in the oven, low and slow until crisp and delicious.

Serving Size= about 60 chips. Active time= about 20 minutes w/ a Cuisinart or other slicer, more if slicing by hand. Cook time= 2 to 2-¼ hours.
* 5 Granny Smith, Rome or Golden Delicious apples, sliced into even 1/8-1/4 inch discs
* 2 Tbl powdered sugar per baking sheet
* assorted spices depending on flavor desired (lime juice-cumin-curry, cinnamon-sugar, salted or plain are all delicious).

1) Set oven racks on bottom and top quarter of the oven. Preheat to 225F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and dust each with powdered sugar.
2) Line sheets with apples, do not overlap apples or they will stick together.
3) Dust top of apples with selected spice combination.
4) Place one sheet on top rack, one on bottom and back for 2- 2-¼ hours, until apples are golden. Rotate bake sheets half way through cooking and remove apples immediately from sheets onto a cooling rack once out of the oven.
NOTE: Serve as a snack (like regular potato chips) or as a side to sadwiches, on top of ice cream or other creamy fall dessert, in a salad, with pork chops or whatever else you can imagine.

Head over to Sweetnick's for today's ARF round up!

Check out other Fall Feast-ival items over at WellFed's FitFare!

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