October is more than just the month for Halloween; it’s also when local apples are at their peak with new varieties arriving each week in local farm stores and farm markets.
Pennsylvania has more than 270 apple growers, and some of them are here in Bucks County. Additional growers are across the river in New Jersey, producing dozens of varieties each year.
Local growers include Solebury Orchards and Manoff Market Gardens in Solebury, Tabora Farm and Orchard in Chalfont, Shady Brook Farm outside Newtown, Styer Orchard in Langhorne, Solly Brothers Farm in Warminster, Brumbaugh Farm in Telford, and Terhune Orchards and Vineyards outside Princeton, N.J.
As the fourth-largest apple-producing state, Pennsylvania harvests between 10 and 12 million bushels each year.
Those apples are delightful to eat fresh this time of year and beyond; apples properly refrigerated last a very long time. They also are made into a variety of products to enjoy year-round. Those include pies, cakes, cobblers, crisps, hard and sweet cider, candied apples, chutneys, jams and that signature Pennsylvania spread, apple butter.
Apple butter has its roots in the food of the Pennsylvania Dutch, who call it “lattwaerrick” in their dialect. Globally, apple butter comes from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, developed as long ago as the Middle Ages as a way of preserving fresh fruit.
Apple butter is used as a topping for waffles, pancakes and potato pancakes. Some like it on cottage cheese, vanilla yogurt or ice cream. It can be used as an ingredient in cakes, muffins and marinades. Most popularly, it’s a spread for toast and English muffins.
It’s easy to make, especially when you follow this recipe from Paeats.org and make it in a slow cooker.
6 pounds sweet and tart Pennsylvania apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
½ cup Pennsylvania apple cider
½ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon each ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground cloves, ground allspice
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1. Combine apples and cider in large slow cooker. In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, cinnamon, spices and salt. Sprinkle spice mixture over apples and toss to combine. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours, until apples are very tender.
2. Use immersion blender to puree apples in slow cooker (alternatively, puree in batches in blender and return to slow cooker). Continue to cook on high without lid, letting mixture reduce for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
3. Let cool completely and store in airtight container in refrigerator. Serve over biscuits, toast, chicken, pork and more.