heirloom tomatoes

Food for Fall from the North Country

Yesterday felt like a beautiful early fall day in the Adirondacks.  Some acorns and hickory nuts are falling now.t was 34 degrees in the early am – and we had frost warnings.  3 September – just earlier than normal.

I love fall – all of it.  Crisp clear weather, cold rainy days that make me want to hibernate and cook.  And so that doing.  Yesterday I dug up potatoes (gold, russets and blues) and my onions.  My wonderful heritage tomatoes were just calling to me.  So rather than turn them all into tomatoes sauce, which was my first thought, I took a big handful and made tomato salad, And we ate it all with some Tostito scoop chips!  It brings the sweetness and flavor of tomatoes to life.

Heirloom tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes in a variety of colors

Fox Pines Tomato Salad / Appetizer

Use several heritage tomatoes – a mix is fine – and I even quarter up cherry or grape tomatoes

Cut into small dice, about a 1/4″

Put in a bowl, and add balsamic vinegar and good olive oil in a 1: 3 ration (1/4 cup vinegar to 3/4 cup oil for instance).  I grind in fresh pink Himalayan salt ( like this , I keep it next to my stove), or your favorite salt.  Also grind in fresh pepper.  Sometimes I add in dices red onion, and more often than that I will grate in a clove of garlic.

Let it set a couple hours at room temperature (a test of my willpower) to let the flavors meld together.

If you have fresh basil, finely chop up and stir in just before eating.  Who doesn’t love the small of fresh picked basil?

Though I served with the scoops chips this time, I also will take some day old bread and toast in a pan (lightly spread the bread with mayo, and put that cast iron skillet on medium heat, then flip and toast the other side.)

There is seldom any left over.


The other thing I made is a Caramel Apple Pie – apples  of all kinds are now in season, and there are so many to choose from.  We prefer apples that bake up really soft, so I used some Pink Ladies and Cortland’s.  I like a mix of at least two kinds of apples in my pie.

Apple pie

Caramel Apple pie

I found this recipe in Autumn 2017 Issue of Southern Cast Iron Magazine. In fact, the pie was the cover.

I read it twice to make sure I understood what it was saying – more in a minute.  The whole thing is very decadent, and it used more butter than any other pie recipe I’ve ever made.! Gala, Macintosh, or Fuji apples would all work well too.

It was also the best apple pie I’ve ever made.

Here’s my twist on the original recipe.

Caramel Apple Pie

2 2/3 c flour (I used plain white flour since that’s what the recipe called for, But next time I think I would use half spelt or white whole wheat pastry flour)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup cold butter, cubed – I actually had only frozen butter on hand, but I cubed and used, and it worked great – it really was cold.
1/4 c apple cider
1/4 c ice water

1/2 c butter
1 c light brown sugar, packed

1/3 c granulated sugar (I used only about 1/4 c)
1/3 c brown sugar
4 tbsp corn starch
11/2 tsp apple pie spice (I used 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp cloves, I think next time I will also add in some mace)
6 cups of sliced apples
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice and 1 tbsp grated zest (why waste the rest of the lemon?)

1 large egg
1 tbsp turbanado sugar

vanilla ice cream, if desired, to serve with warm pie!

Preheat oven to 375 Degrees F.

I started the caramel sauce first, because it needs to cool: in a 10 inch cast iron pan, melt the butter and then whisk in the brown sugar until it’s melted. Set aside to cool.

Crust: put into a food processor bowl the flour, sugar and salt, and pulse to combine. Add in the cold butter and pulse until crumbly. With the processor running add in the vinegar and ice water. I found I needed to add a bit more water than called for.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead once or twice, and divide into two pieces. Form into a disc, and wrap in plastic wrap. Put int eh refrigerator to chill. Chilling will re-harden the butter than may have softened while making the dough. Cold butter heated up in the hot oven will turn into a flaky crust – and this much butter makes it flay for sure!

Filling:  Here’s where I peeled and sliced the apples.
Whisk the sugars, cornstarch, spices and salt together. Add the apples and lemon juice, & zest, and mix it all up.

To assemble:

Roll out one of the pie crust disc’s into a large enough circle to fit into the skillet. Put it right on top of the caramel mix – this is the part I read twice, and at first considered it to be a misprint. Really, ON TOP of the caramel? Yep, that’s what you do.

Pour in the apple filling.

Top with a crust made of your choice – the original recipes is a lattice top. Not wanting to fuss that much, I rolled out the second disc of dough and put it on top in one whole piece. Don’t forget to moisten the edge of the bottom piece so you can get a good seal and crimp the top crust to the bottom in your choice of design – I use a fork like my Grandma did. Make a couple slits for steam to escape.

If you like, beat up an egg and 1 tbsp water and brush the crust, then sprinkle with the sugar. I keep it simple – no egg wash, just plain sugar sprinkled on top, again a la Grandma style.

Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Check after 35 minutes, and tent foil over the crust for the last 10 minutes if needed, to prevent over-browning.

Enjoy warm, plain or with ice cream, and any left overs can be heated by the slice for a few minutes to re-warm if desired.

The caramel sauce that is under the crust soaks into it and into the apples – and the crust gets nice a crispy from the heat of the cast iron.  Delicious.

I guess I never use enough fat (butter, lard, shortening) in my pie crust dough.  This was by far the best and most flaky crust ever.

Between the taste of the tomatoes, and the smell of fresh pie from the oven,   and wonderful sunny cool weather, it was a perfect day.

What are you doing to celebrate fall?

fall is time for tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes



One thought on “Food for Fall from the North Country

Comments are closed.