You don’t see many Southern apple cookie recipes; a quick scan of Southern Sideboards, Bayou Cuisine, River Road Recipes, Vintage Vicksburg, Gourmet of the Delta, The Jackson Cookbook, and The Mississippi Cookbook turned up nary a one. However, this recipe comes from Hosford Fontaine’s Allison’s Wells: The Last Mississippi Spa, and you can’t get any more Southern than that. Though the South has a native crab apple, most of the Old-World apple species that produce what Emerson called “the American fruit” simply don’t do well in our climate, and fruit from those that do are most often dried or made into pies or sauce. As to the kind of apples to use, that’s up to you; I used Galas.
3 cups of fine unpeeled diced apples; (I use only pieces with skin so that when baked they’ll stay firm)
2 sticks butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar, packed
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
A half teaspoon each ground cloves, nutmeg and salt
2 cups rolled oats
¼ cup white raisins
¼ cup chopped pecans
Cream butter and sugars well, add eggs and flour mixed and sifted with spices and baking powder, then stir in apples, oats and nuts. Refrigerate dough for about 30 minutes, stirring once. Form dough into ping pong balls, and bake on a lightly oiled cookie sheet with parchment paper at 350 or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. This recipe makes about three dozen wonderful, chewy, sticky cookies.
This recipe is not only easy, but it fills your home with those aromas you associate with autumn: apples, cloves, cinnamon and oranges. You can use a slow cooker like a crock-pot or you can (as I do) simply put a large pot on the back of the stove with a flame-buster under it and leave it on low heat until you’re ready to finish it up. (In my experience, the apples are ready long before I am.) The recipe also mixes apples with a couple of oranges for a little acid bite and added sweetness. You can use any type of orange, but I recommend a mandarin-type (tangerine of satsuma) instead of one of those tasteless, thick-skinned navels. Sure, you’re going to peel the oranges anyway, but navel oranges just don’t have the flavor of a Valencia or mandarin. As to the type of apples, use a mixture. I’ve included here a chart that will help you with your selection, but I do not recommend using Gold Delicious because they’re just too grainy.
Put about a gallon of water in your cooking container. Quarter about a dozen apples and two to four oranges, depending on size. Don’t peel the apples, but by all means peel the oranges because the oil in the skin will make the juice bitter over time. Add four sticks of cinnamon and a tablespoon or so of whole cloves. Do NOT use ground spices. You can also add a thumb of fresh ginger, whole nutmeg or allspice, but I’m of the “less is more” school and prefer to let the apples dominate the flavor. Heat to a simmer, the reduce to low and cook until the apples are totally soft, adding more liquid as needed.
When the fruit is soft through, take a wooden spoon and mash the fruit against the side of your pot, then strain, first in a colander, then in a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. I recommend cheesecloth, since you can get more juice by squeezing out the ball and it reduces the amounts of particles. You can strain through layers of cloth for clarification. As to the sweetener, taste your cider. You might not even want to add any. If you do, I recommend brown sugar to taste. Serve warm with a slice of orange and a stick of cinnamon in the cups. It should go without saying that a slosh of dark rum is a great idea for grown-ups.