Connecting kids to the farm and helping them understand where food comes from is a major part of the Ag in the Classroom program. Find out about all the activities plus grant opportunities for teachers in this Farm Fresh Podcast featuring Bridget Caldwell, McLean County Ag in the Classroom Coordinator.
For 6-12 grade teachers interested in applying for an Ag Science Grant from McLean County Farm Bureau Foundation, click here.
Listen every week for the Farm to Table segment on WJBC Radio Wednesdays at 12:45 p.m.
How do you like your apple pie? For me warm & a la mode is the way to go. I think ice cream is especially delicious atop a slice of Dutch Apple Pie, which features a crunchy streusel topping instead of pastry crust.
My mom always bakes this pie inside a brown paper grocery bag – an old fashioned technique that helps steam the filling and keep the top from browning too dark. I’m a little gun shy, however; as the bag could catch fire if it comes into contact with the sides of the oven or one of the elements.
In all the times my mom made this pie growing up, it only happened once. My dad happened to be home at the time and responded to the fire call from the kitchen when the paper bag began to smolder because it was too close to the top element. Mom grabbed the fire extinguisher, but dad said, ‘No, that will ruin the pie!”
Instead he pulled the pie out of the oven with leather gloves, ripped the burning bag off the pie and stomped out the fire with his boots. Yes, he managed to save the pie from becoming a burnt sacrifice…a story he’s still proud to tell many years later.
And it should give you an idea of how delicious this Dutch Apple Pie is, that it would cause my dad (who is also a volunteer fireman) to attempt such heroics.
To avoid such excitement, I just cover the pie with an aluminum pie pan to achieve a similar effect.
The math is pretty simple for this recipe: 12 cups of homemade applesauce & 12 hours in a crock pot yields 6 pints of sweet & spicy apple butter. Apple butter makes a tasty topping biscuits, rolls & toast…or if you find it as hard to resist as some people I know, you can eat it all by itself out of a bowl. And as a bonus – making apple butter makes your house smell amazing!
The rich brown color of apple butter comes from a combination of brown sugar, cinnamon & cloves, but part of it is also due to oxidation of the apples. Just like a sliced apple turns brown if it’s exposed to air long enough, the oxygen in the air reacts with the apples as they cook.
Enzymatic browning is not harmful, but discoloration on a fresh apple is somewhat unappealing. Recently some scientists and plant breeders figured out how to ‘turn off’ the genes that cause enzymatic browning to create Arctic Apples which will be available in Granny Smith & Golden Delicious varieties initially.
Arctic apples are so new you can’t buy them yet – some growers have planted trees but it will take a few years before they will bear fruit.
Did you know there are more than 7,500 apple varieties in the world? About 100 of those varieties are grown commercially. Check out this handy overview of apple varieties from Modern Farmer for more information.
For this recipe, I would recommend Yellow Delicious, Fuji, MacIntosh or Jonathon apples.
Please note that fresh apple butter (like this recipe) needs to be kept refrigerated or frozen. The only real challenge is making all the applesauce, which should be done the day before. When it comes to cooking the applesauce into apple butter – you pretty much set it & forget it.
Butternut squash receives much less fanfare than it’s botanical cousin, the preeminent and ever-popular pumpkin. And while pumpkin will like remain king of fall flavors for the foreseeable future, one taste of this baked squash recipe just might cause you to rethink your palate priorities.
My freshman year of college, I took my roommate to my parent’s house for a home-cooked meal and baked butternut squash was on the menu. In my roommate’s words it ‘made her believe in the possibilities of squash,’ a vegetable she had never previously liked.
This recipe for baked squash came from my grandmother and is a perennial fall favorite for my family. The combination of squash, apples, sugar and spices make for a delicious side dish almost good enough to be called dessert and one that pairs particularly well with pork.
One warning: this is one dish that doesn’t taste as good as leftovers, so only make what you plan to have eaten….not that eating all of it should be a problem!
Baked Butternut Squash
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 lbs)
1 -2 medium apples
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
With a knife, cut the neck off of the butternut squash. Cut off the top and peel. Cut into slices about 1″ thick. Peel the bottom and scoop out the seeds. Cut into 1″ slices/pieces.
Arrange all your slices into a glass baking dish.
Core, peel & slice your apple into rings. Arrange on top of the squash pieces.
In a saucepan, melt the butter. Once melted, stir in brown sugar, cinnamon & flour.
Immediately pour the sauce over the apples & squash.
Bake for 50 – 60 minutes until squash is fork tender.
Today’s recipe is so simple I hesitate to even call it a recipe: 2 ingredients & a little time are all it takes to make delicious homemade applesauce.
My parents have 6 apples trees, so growing up we had an abundant supply of apples and fresh applesauce was frequently on the menu in the fall and winter.
Applesauce is a great way to use some apples that may be a little past their prime – ones that are bruised or starting to wrinkle. You probably won’t see anything like that in the apples you buy at the store, but at an orchard you can probably buy what they call “seconds.”
Seconds are apples that are less than perfect visually – maybe not be ones you want to slice & eat fresh, but they are good for cooking & baking…including homemade applesauce! Of course you could use the better looking apples, too. You will just pay a little more for them because they’re pretty.
5 medium apples
1/4 cup water
Peel and chop your apples using your preferred method. I just use a knife for a small number – but you could use a fancy crank peeler or even chop your apples in a food processor.
Pour 1/4 cup of water in a medium sauce pan
Add your chopped apples & cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until apples chunks are soft (my small batch of 5 apples took about 30 minutes, a larger batch would take longer).
Remove from heat & mash with a potato masher. You can also run it through a blender for smoother applesauce. I like mine “rustic” & slightly chunky.
Serve warm or cold. Add cinnamon if desired. You could also add sugar, but I think the fruit is sweet enough all by itself.
Store in the refrigerator. Can also be frozen for later.
5 apples = about 1 cup of applesauce
Apple Varieties: sweet varieties like Yellow Delicious, Jonathon’s & Galas make good applesauce. I would avoid some of the tarter varieties like Red Delicious & Granny Smith.
You can really use as many apples as you want, just use a bigger pan. You will only need 1/4 cup of water even for a large batch. The water just keeps the apples from sticking to the bottom of the pan until they start to cook down and release some juices.