I love the cool, crisp weather of fall and the prospect of fall foods. This recipe for Spiced Baked Apples is on the fall menu!
That limits the varieties quite a bit, but all apples are great for baking. I try to get the largest organic apples I can find. This is a simple recipe that is easy – great for company as everyone loves baked apples!
The wild apples of ancient Asia were bitter and small. Cultivation of apples became popular in Rome and Greece and this improved the fruit.
Pliny the Elder, a Roman statesman, described 37 different varieties of cultivated apples in his Historia naturalis. By the first century apples were being cultivated in every region throughout the Rhine Valley and by the year 1640, there were 60 varieties. In 1669 the count was up to 92 varieties, and in 1866 Downing’s Fruits notes 643 different cultivars.
In America we have Johnny Appleseed. We all remember the image of him traveling the country barefoot in his overalls with his pockets filled with apple seeds along with a bag of seeds slung over his shoulder. Legend has it that he tossed these seeds randomly all over the countryside to create a country filled with apple trees.
Johnny Appleseed did actually exist. His real name was John Chapman, born in Massachusetts in 1774. He cultivated apples and started many apple nurseries that stretched from the Allegheny River in the East as far west as Ohio. His dedication to apple cultivation earned him his legendary nickname, Johnny Appleseed.
In Medieval England, they performed an ancient fertility ritual to insure a good crop of apples. Villagers would select the largest apple tree in the orchard, and hang cider-soaked pieces of toast on its branches to attract robins. Robins were considered the good spirits of the tree.
To drive away the evil spirits, the people would gather throughout the orchard and fire their shotguns. Then they poured cider over the tree’s roots and drank some themselves. This was followed by dancing around the tree with their arms linked as they chanted ancient charms.
In Cumberland, England, people would suspend apples from strings over the hearth. When the apples were fully roasted, they fell into a bowl of spiced, mulled wine that was set below. This was the forerunner to the oven-baked apple of today.