Autumn means apples to me. I resisted them for the first couple of weeks, because it just did not feel like fall yet-- too warm and still so much late-summer produce to enjoy. But I finally couldn't wait any longer, and now I am trying out all kinds of apples....
This week I found a new one-- the Stayman. Some orchard owners from Chimayo brought about ten different kinds of apples to the Farmers Market at Albuquerque Academy. I grew up in New England on MacIntosh apples, and I am always craving that same tart, crunchy, crispy kind of apple-- not always easy to find in New Mexico. This one was SO good that I have no idea why I only bought four of them. Not even enough to really bake anything with-- so the girls and I just ate them right up. Then I needed to find out where we could get some more.
I did a little research and discovered that Stayman apples have been around since the 1860's, that they are closely related to Winesaps, have a "low-chill requirement" and are suited to warm and temperate climates. Even better, there are several orchards in New Mexico that grow them! In the interests of time and a small carbon footprint, I picked the closest one-- Alary Farm in Corrales. (Open 9-5, Fri-Sun during apple season.) It was a beautiful autumn day-- the kind that makes me want to go out and take a lot of pictures. So off I went.
Alary Farm is easy to find-- on the east side of Corrales Road. I got a big bag of Stayman apples and a gallon of cider. The owner let me wander around the orchard, taking pictures and soaking up autumn in New Mexico. Corrales always makes me feel a little bit like I am back in New England-- especially at this time of year when I get the most homesick. It has an almost-rural, small-town feel to it, even though it is just minutes from Albuquerque. And it is full of orchards and gardens and places selling apples and cider. A person could make a whole day of it out there tasting and sampling.
The owner was telling me that they are the only ones in Corrales selling the Stayman apple, and that they also have an even later apple-- the Black Twig-- which is even crisper and stores better, but will not be ready until early November. He also told me, sadly, that someone has been stealing his apples, in large quantities, but he has not managed to catch them at it. He thinks that they sell them at a market somewhere. Either that or they like to do fall baking even more than I do...
These apples made me feel like cooking something up right away. I was pretty hungry after my mini adventure, so I decided to forego baking for something quicker-- French Toast w/Caramelized Apples. Here's what you do: 1) core and thinly slice one apple per serving. 2) sauté apples in some sweet butter. 3) sprinkle w/a few teaspoons of brown sugar mixed w/a pinch each of cinnamon & nutmeg. Cook until sugar caramelizes and apples are turning golden brown. Set aside to keep warm.
Meanwhile, prepare the french toast: 1) mix 2 egg yolks, 2 tablespoons milk, 1 teaspoon Calvados (apple brandy) & a pinch each of cinnamon & nutmeg, per serving, w/a wire whisk. 2) soak 4-5 thick slices of french baguette in the egg mixture. 3) toast until cooked all the way through and very brown, on a griddle over medium heat.
Arrange french toast on individual serving plates. Spoon caramelized apples over the bread. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts, and top with a spoonful of sour cream or creme fraiche. Enjoy at once... close your eyes and drift back out to those orchards, full of delicious New Mexico apples.
We'll have to go back soon and look for the very last apples of the season. And some more cider. Because we already polished that off, too.