It is the beginning of October and for those of us in the Midwest and throughout the United States, it’s apple orchard season. Visiting the local apple orchard is practically a religious experience in the rural areas of Michigan and devout apple zealots are eager throw themselves into the experience. From buying gallons of apple cider to burning one’s lips on the hot sugar of a freshly made cinnamon doughnut, orchard enthusiasts will tell you that picking apples is only part of the experience.
With Halloween fast approaching, orchards are brimming with pumpkins for carving a baking pies. Moms on the hayride out to the apples or pumpkins share recipes for red hot apple sauce, caramel apple bars and pumpkin logs. I’ve tasted a lot of these staples and have enjoyed them. Sadly, few, local apple enthusiasts ever talk about poaching fruit and I recently had a conversation with a lovely woman frantically trying to pick up a few ingredients for a last minute get together at her house.
While other folks were suggesting a local bakery to pick up dessert for the last minute dinner for co-workers, I suggested a simpler idea. Poaching a few of the apples she had just purchased. I confidently suggested that in the time it took her to drive to one more place to pick up a cake or pie, she could already have made the dessert. Additionally, my dessert would be tastier, easier and support the local orchard.
4 medium to large apples (honey crisp, granny smith or mackintosh varieties poach well), peeled and the very bottom cut to make the fruit sit upright.
1 Tbs. butter
4 Tbs. brown sugar
1 cup Armagnac, Calvados or Dark Rum
Prepare fruit ahead of time and set aside in the refrigerator. When guests are nearly finishing their meal, invite them to join you in the kitchen for dessert. In a large skillet, melt butter on medium heat. Turn down to low and add brown sugar. As the sugar and butter become melted and thick, stir constantly and add the Armagnac. Be sure to keep the heat on low so as not to boil off the alcohol completely. Once the sauce begins to lightly steam, place apples in the skillet sauce. Baste the fruit with a spoon, constantly poaching the apples until they form a nice golden brown color. Fruit should not become mushy and should hold their form, cooking until just tender.
Serve each apple in an individual bowl on its own, with ice cream or whipped cream.