Market to Table

APPLE CRUMBLE vs APPLE CRISP

Escapes 1

Apples at the Spirit Tree Estate Cidery

DIARY: Driving around in the countryside, antiquing.

RECIPES: Apple crumble and apple crisp.

We’ve been on a Sunday expedition into the countryside north of Toronto on a voyage of discovery, doing research for what was to become my TV series, Escapes with Nigel. We planned to go yesterday, but it rained torrentially, so we made do with today, when it only rained a bit. The top stayed up on the convertible as a consequence.

We meander along country roads, hoping to find an antique shop with a perfect old baking dish like my granny had, wherein she made a delicious apple crumble. We were unsuccessful in that part of our quest, but we did meet some interesting characters along the way.

Escapes 2

Antiquing destination

Near Mono Mills, we pull in at Country Manor Antiques and have a good chat with the rugged owner, who’s in the middle of some carpentry project. This part the countryside is still completely rural, unlike neighbouring Orangeville, where the ticky-tacky houses are eating up perfectly good farm land. He says the locals have, for now, beaten back the aggregate industry, which wants to put in another massive gravel pit nearby, even though they’ve got enough capacity for 50 years or more as it is. It’s just greed, he concludes and we agree. We’re always fighting off greedy developers who want to ruin our Annex neighbourhood. He doesn’t have any antique pie dishes though.

At Moorcroft Antiques, in Belfountain, the shop is full of the eponymous London porcelain, but it’s not what we’re looking for.

Spirit Tree 6

House rules to live by at Spirit Tree Estate Cidery

Lunch is charming, at the Spirit Tree Estate Cidery in Caledon. We enjoy a couple of draughts of the dry English-style pub cider, along with our meal. In the farm shop we seek fresh picked cooking apples, but they only have eating apples. I’m looking for a couple of types, advertised on their website, that sound good for pies: Wealthy and Gravenstein. The latter is widely grown on both our coasts, and in Ontario, but is more commonly found on old farms than in commercial businesses. It was first grown in Denmark and recorded as early as 1669, but it does not keep well and is only available in season. It has a tart flavour, which makes it especially good for cooking and cider making. The Wealthy apple is a chance cross between a Siberian crab apple and an unknown variety from Maine and was widely distributed across the continent after being first grown in Minnesota in the 1860s. However the shop has sold out of both today and will have more in stock during the week.

It was during this trip and others like it that the germ of the idea for my televisions series, Escapes with Nigel, began to form, and we returned to Spirit Tree for one segment. It’s great fun to watch!

Apple crumble

Apple crumble waits for discerning diners

We swing by The Big Carrot for organic Granny Smith apples on our way home. Granny Smith, originally from Australia and all grown from cuttings of a single tree discovered in 1868, are excellent for cooking, tart and crisp.

Is apple crumble better than apple crisp? Since we have a teenage lad living in the house, who will gladly devour a couple of dishes of pie, I decide to make both.

Apple crisp 2

Apple crisp served with fresh whipped cream

Apple crumble, also known as a brown betty, is originally an English dish, which went out of favour during the war years due to the scarcity of the ingredients for the topping: fat (usually butter), flour and sugar. Whether apple crisp, which replaces the flour with more readily available rolled oats, became popular as a result, I don’t know, but that’s the version my granny used to make, even though she still called it crumble. It is also hugely popular in American cuisine, probably due to the influence of colonizing Brits. Crumbles and crisps can be made with other stewed fruits, especially blackberries and rhubarb and in various delicious combinations with apple. They are simplicity themselves to make. The recipes are almost identical, switching flour for rolled oats. You be the judge as to which is the most delicious.

APPLE CRUMBLE

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 1hr 20mins
  • Print
by Nigel Napier-Andrews
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 50 mins
Ingredients
  • 6 tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Topping
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed down
  • ½ cup butter, hard but not frozen
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C
  2. Peel and core apples and slice into medium size chunks. Sprinkle on the lemon juice and toss to prevent the apples turning brown. Put in baking dish and sprinkle on the granulated sugar evenly.
  3. In a mixing bowl mix the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut in the butter and mix by hand until it looks and feels like wet sand.
  4. Spread the topping all over the apples. Gently press the topping down and score with a large fork to make rough furrows.
  5. Bake in the middle of the oven for 50 min, or until the apples are tender and the top is crunchy. 

APPLE CRISP

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 1hr 20mins
  • Print

Prep time: 30 mins

Cook time: 50 mins

Ingredients

  • 6 tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Topping
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed down
  • ½ cup butter, hard but not frozen
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C
  2. Peel and core apples and slice into medium size chunks. Sprinkle on the lemon juice and toss to prevent the apples turning brown.
  3. In a mixing bowl mix the oats, sugar and spices, reserving a couple of tbsp of the sugar for later. Cut in the butter and mix by hand until it looks and feels like wet sand.
  4. Pack the apple into a fairly deep baking dish and spread the topping all over. Gently press the topping down, and add the rest of the sugar, which will caramelize in the oven.
  5. Bake in the middle of the oven for 50 min, or until the apples are tender and the top is crunchy. 

This article was originally published on September 26, 2013.

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