There are apples, apples everywhere - part of the wonderfulness of the Fall harvest. Though some grocery store apples are imported, I was reminded recently about both historical and current Canadian apple history.

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  • the Georgian Bay shore from Meaford to Collingwood is still noted for apples - an industry that was once booming. This Meaford site tells part of the story dating back to 1837, and The Apple Pie Trail offers a culinary guide.
  • the totally charming CBC program Still Standing (in which Jonny Harris visits struggling small towns) did an episode on Berwick, Nova Scotia which once had a thriving industry supplying apples to the UK! Even a quick peek at the website for their "Apple Capital" Museum is fascinating - e.g. an 1898 grumble that exporting apples to the UK was cheaper for them from Boston than from Halifax!

I always aim to link a blog post to a recipe. The most recent blog was partly about apples - so what recipe to include here? I don't have a family classic to add to this "legacy collection" so I was attracted to something new.  What could be healthier than "apple pie" without the pastry? Recent posts (to Instagram and blog) were linked to my attendance at FBC2015 in Montreal - the third annual conference of Food Bloggers of Canada. I met some talented people and had the best chats with Montrealer Holly whose food writing appears in Jittery Cook. Holly claims her mother and sister are the talented cooks in the family, and despite being more "jittery" in the kitchen, she is the one who is recording new and old family recipes. Inspired by the Humans of New York project, she has also begun her own photo chronicle under Jibber Jabber.

I have made negligible changes to her recipe for these Apple Clusters - and you may want to peek at her blog (photos too), before reading about my experience with it. I had fun with an old kitchen toy and will make this again - though I made "mistakes" and some notes for next time. (it's a crazy simple recipe - not sure how I managed to make it seem complicated. Maybe I am the jittery cook!) Serves 4-6. Served best warm - see Tips below.

Getting ready: preheat oven to 375 F and use a 12-cup full size muffin tin

1 TB unsalted butter

Melt butter and lightly brush each cup in muffin tin. I was worried there would be no butter left after this, but there was - set this aside momentarily - it will be added to the glaze.

3-4 apples

Slice very thinly and nestle into muffin tin - see Tips (below) re type, quantity and slicing.

1 TB coconut sugar or maple syrup
1 tsp jam

Combine with remaining butter and heat to blend. (I used maple syrup.) Brush over each apple cluster. See Tips.

Bake for 30 minutes in preheated 375 F oven, until golden. Loosen the sides with a knife, then scoop out each cluster with a spoon or fork. 

Notes and Tips...

  • Muffin tin - the tin is prepped with melted butter; the baked apple clusters are removed while still warm and came out without too much difficulty; next time I might add a wee folded strip of parchment to the cup to make lifting the clusters out a bit easier - still pondering if that would be necessary or worth the few minutes of work
  • Butter - all baking tends to use unsalted butter - I have a feeling this could also work with salted butter - after all, pastry does have a bit of salt in it that surely enhances the flavour a bit.
  • Quantity of apples - ah, the existential question - what is an apple? My calorie counter refers to small (2 3/4"), medium 3" and large 4". For my first time with this recipe I used only 2 large apples - and... that turned out to be a tiny mistake. I loosely loaded each cup in the muffin tin - and those cups did seem to "runneth over", but the apple thins cooked down and so the outcome was pretty, but flat. Next time I will "pack" the cups a little more snugly and so will count on using at least 3 large apples.
  • Type of apple - since you are sort of making apple pie without the crust, my guess is that it would be best to stick with the classic firm apples used in pies - thus preventing this from turning into apple mush / sauce. I used Honey Crisp.
  • Slicing apples - you may be good at "thin slicing" by hand - maybe you are even one of those people who can create a nice long apple spiral by hand! Many of you may have a mandolin tool to achieve super thin slices. Whether or not you core the apples first will depend on the tool. As it turns out, I have a spiralizer. (Here's a demo if you have never seen one. ) In the days when I bought it, it was expensive and (sadly / stupidly) I hardly ever use it. [I was inspired to buy it about a decade ago after having Susur Lee's signature Singapore Slaw - I could eat this every day - if I had all the 19 ingredients. Here's an older 16 ingredient version - and if you Google this, you can find more links and Susur videos. You can enjoy the slaw salad at Lee's or Bent.] So, the spiralizer was dusted off and the fun began. You can see that you do not remove the core, and in seconds you have a gorgeous pile of gossamer thin apples! 
  • Rose coloured - Jittery Cook describes these as rose-coloured - achieved by placing the red skins on top; using a spiralizer you get no long strips of red peel, so I noticed no "rose colour"; I even peeled one apple, but did not achieve "pink". Nonetheless they were beautiful as they came out of the oven.
  • Glaze - the recipe does not specify type of jam - I used low sugar apricot jam - and bumped it up to 1 TB. If the jam has fruit lumps, you can whiz it with a mini blending tool. "Warmed" it will be easier to spread / apply.
  • Baking - Keep in mind that I did not put enough apples into each muffin cup... Mine were already golden at the 25 minute mark, but I left them in for a few more minutes - even the crispy, caramelized bits were yummy.
  • Serving - Holly suggests "Serve 2-3 Apple Clusters per person... Perfect as a dessert, snack or side dish." I served it with some Liberte Vanilla Bean Greek Yogurt, but serving suggestions are limited only by your imagination. If not baking this just before serving, then I would warm it up in the oven for a few minutes. They were also good at room temperature. Storage? none left over...
  • Make ahead? - hmmm... apples will go brown, although they go brown while baking anyhow. Maybe a little spritz with lemon juice will keep them fresh if you want to prep this a bit ahead of time.
  • Happy? I am. Thank you Holly! I invite you to visit her website and say hi!

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