I had the idea for a food blog about a year ago. I decided then that I would eat as much locally grown and produced food as possible and blog about it. I set the lofty goal of eating only food produced in a hundred and fifty mile radius of my home. No outside seasonings, drinks or ingredients.
My love of all food got in my way. While I am eating locally, I just can't bring myself to cut out the little things that put a meal over the top: freshly ground sea salt, cumin, sugar, Coca cola.
But, in the spirit of that original idea I have decided to blog about some of my favorite delicious local ingredients - with some non-local ingredients thrown in, too.
At the beginning of fall, it is only appropriate that I begin with one of my favorite ingredients of the season: apples. I am truly blessed to have a wonderful apple orchard at my local farmer's market. You can check them out at www.ayresapples.com .
I love just biting into a crisp, juicy apple. My favorite is dipped in caramel. I'm also a big fan of apple cider. Fried apples. Dried apples. Apple pies. Apple and pork recipes. The list goes on.
There's one recipe, though, that has particular significance for me. I've been making it for years and -- when I do it right -- it's delicious. Everyone loves it. And it has all the components that I look for in a great recipe:
A feeling of creation (not just heating up something processed or pre-packaged).
A great back story.
Use of local ingredients.
And, above all else, can't sit still and eat it delicious.
Here's the story:
My first semester of college was spent at Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, KY. There were things I liked and didn't like about it. I enjoyed my work assignment in the Financial Aid Office on campus and made quick friends with the office staff.
No big surprise, I talked about food a lot. And it just so happened a local church was publishing a cook book that semester. I showed interest in the cook book and received it as a Christmas gift in the office gift exchange.
Back home over winter break I flipped through the pages. A 'Fresh Apple Cake' recipe caught my eye. It was a cake made completely from scratch with one of my favorite ingredients. I had never made a cake completely from scratch before and was intimidated, but with my mom in the kitchen beside me I worked up the courage to tackle it.
I've baked this cake dozens of times since and can't help but be reminded of the confidence it gave me and how honored I felt to be a part of it's history. The recipe was actually contributed by the Financial Aid Director, Nancy Melton, a lady I came to greatly respect during my time at ALC. The recipe was her grandmother's. Ironically, her grandmother shared the same name as my great grandmother.
In my own non-scientific rating method, I would say the recipe is moderately difficult. And each time I make it, I think about the kitchen it was first prepared in. How much more difficult it would be to make without modern conveniences. How much more of a treat it must have been.
I encourage you to visit your local orchard, and try your hand at this delicious recipe. (I've included my own notes.)
Fresh Apple Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups apples, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup butter
Mix all ingredients. The mixture will seem drier than most cake batters, but will come out super-moist after baking. I have found it is easier if the butter is melted prior to mixing. Pour into a 9x13 inch greased pan. Bake in a 325 degree oven until done, when toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 50 to 60 minutes. Poke small holes all over the cake with a fork, toothpick or skewer.
Icing: (This also serves as a good caramel recipe for dipping apples, but will harden fairly quickly.)
1/2 stick butter
2 tablespoons white Karo syrup
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan on medium heat. I use a 2 quart sauce pan. The mixture will boil to the top, but not over. (I used a smaller saucepan the first time and it did boil over. There may be a second of panic, but I've never had the icing boil over in the 2 quart pan.) Boil to soft-ball stage (234 to 238 degrees). Immediately pour the icing over the cake as soon as it reaches this stage/temperature.
This cake is delicious while it is still warm, but we've found that the caramel seeps into the cake and it becomes even more delicious the second and third days. Also great heated up and served with ice cream.
Enjoy. And please let me know if you have any questions on this recipe and/or what you thought!
Recipe taken from "What's Cooking on Caney Creek?"