The Hospitality of Red Apples
I have been making this Old-fashioned Apple crisp since I started cooking seriously in middle school. It was one of the first recipes I attempted. I struggled then, as I do now, not to eat the crumbly, buttery oat clusters on top of the bubbling apple ooze, right out of the oven. Not only does the smell of this crisp fill the whole house with autumnal glory, it stays around for days to be reheated without complaint and eaten for breakfast with a dollop of peanut butter or yogurt.
It is amazing how scent travels through a house. Hours after I left the kitchen to go to the floor above, I smelled cinnamon in the nooks and crannies of the roof. As if the aromas of what we are cooking travel upward by divine law. Like a ghost or a guest lingering, the smells of slowly softening apples bathed the rooms in mellow memory. What you can remember with the simple smell of a flower or a beef stew! So many stories. Stories, I imagine, that they tell in every land and language. The guests that visit will remember your good stories and good cooking.
I am often thinking about hospitality, what it requires of us and how it looks at different times and in different places. This week I realized that hospitality has a great deal to with loss. Or rather hospitality is a commitment to confronting the bittersweet fact of the short time we have together. Our being together then is a cause for celebration, in itself another form of thoughtfulness.
Welcoming with your whole heart will also teach you how to say good-bye. Good hosts not only make you feel comfortable, they also make you feel free.
Open the door to guests and the very wild and wonderful will set a wind to the house, breathing new life and breaking up the sanctity of our own schedule. I like that. I like planning feasts and feeding folks. I want my house to be open to and filled with guests. They are a blast. They remind me that I too am a guest.
In "The Guest House", Jelludin Rumi has successfully expressed the paradox of the guest/host relationship. Our bodies are the guest house, receiving every emotion and sensation as unique visitors. Yet are bodies are guests in the world as well and we are continually being received! An essential going outward, a perpetual coming home. I wrote this poem in response to Rumi's meditation and in thankfulness for red apples and imminent guests.
the poet has taken away my desire to own anything except light cloth and canvas maps
your stories are like waking up to snow
i will cook us a whole fish and together we will eat to the bones
you are feast day punctuated by a pair of muddy boots an occasion for clementines
I hope you will add this recipe to your own list of favorites and get wild with the apples you choose to put in it. I can't speak highly enough about grating your own fresh nutmeg. It adds so much power and depth to a dish, and it also makes you feel like a boss chef to be using a microplane and making it rain...spices.
OLD FASHIONED APPLE CRISP
5 pounds macintosh or Macon apples ( what the farmer got?!)
Grated zest of 1 orange Grated zest of 1 lemon 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice 2 tablespoons or a good squirt of freshly squeezed lemon juice 1/2 cup granulated sugar 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the topping: 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup granulated sugar 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1 cup oatmeal 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
1. Put on some good apple slicing music. I chose Kate Rusby but the soundtrack to the 1994 film version of "Little Women" would do nicely as well. Peel the apples and slice thinly into a large bowl. I use my two tablespoon of lemon juice during peeling time to add to the sliced apples. This ensures that they don't brown and turn mealy. When all is sliced add the 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the orange juice, zest, and spices. I like to add a dash of vanilla extract just like in my apple pies. Stir this mixture heartily and add maybe a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch. Let sit while you make the topping.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter up a large casserole dish. In a bowl combine flour, oatmeal, sugar, and salt. Toss together. You can use a pastry blender to cut in the butter but I just like to use my hands so the oats aren't torn. I cut the butter into small pieces on the board before bleeding them in by hand. This part takes a little elbow grease. Really work the butter in to pick up all dry ingredients but don't be afraid of large buttery pieces. These clumps are the most delicious!
3. Spread apples in the dish and then cover with the crumble topping. Bake in the oven for 50 to an hour and wait for the sides to get all bubbly and jammy looking. You may want to put a roasting pan under the casserole dish to catch any juicy deserters. Enjoy after some Parsnip Chowder (recipe to come!) or for breakfast and bruncheon. Top with vanilla bean ice cream when warm or whipped cream.
Love from this Old-fashioned girl to you. Keep Cooking folks.
Here is a link to Rumi Words: http://www.gratefulness.org/poetry/guest_house.htm