I wanted to make a dessert for our family dinner, but I hadn't done any advance planning. I bought a bar of dark chocolate at Whole Foods, thinking maybe I could make chocolate cookies. Then I started looking through the cookbook and realized that Maple Apples were the perfect dessert for the season. We had all the ingredients, decent apples from the Homestead Farm in Montgomery County, Md. and a small jug of maple syrup that was left over from my sister's Christmas stockings.
I'll let you in on a secret. I don't really like maple syrup on pancakes, so maple syrup in our house lasts a long time. We used to have these little jugs kicking around the house for years. The only problem was, the little jug contained one cup, and the recipe called for two cups. After rummaging through the pantry for ten minutes and not uncovering another little jug, I pulled out the big bottle of Log Cabin syrup and poured a cup of that into the maple syrup. Worked fine. I wouldn't use only Log Cabin, but half and half was an acceptable substitute. The recipe says whipped cream is optional. Don't leave it out. It makes the dessert. The apples turned out puffy, soft and sweet.
The apples simmered in the maple syrup, the ham simmered with the dumplings, the potatoes fried, and the house was filled with wonderful smells. Son told us about his trip to Japan. I was impressed, I'll tell you. When a person one has known all their life, who can't remember to turn out the lights when they leave the house, is representing the United States government with a major trading partner, that's impressive.
This was a great fall dinner, with the weather cooperating and getting down into the 50s at night.
One thing about the apples, they should all fit in the syrup. Since the big pot was taken up with the ham, I wedged in four apples in the smaller pot and put the last one on top, thinking to rotate it. I ended up leaving the last one in for another 15 minutes so it would cook.
6 tart, firm apples, such as Cortland or McIntosh (Cortland are better. You can get them now at farm stands.)
2 cups maple syrup
2 cups water
sweetened whipped cream
1. Remove the core from each apple, but otherwise leave them whole. Remove the peel from the upper half of each apple.
2. Combine the syrup and water, add the apples and simmer until tender, about one hour. Serve cold, with sweetened whipped cream if desired. Serves six.