Make autumn special with grilled apples

The season is changing. Shadows are beginning to change
direction, the leaves are fading into yellows and ambers, and the
air outside is developing a chill. It is autumn.
The season is changing. Shadows are beginning to change direction, the leaves are fading into yellows and ambers, and the air outside is developing a chill. It is autumn. With the new season, we are fortunate to celebrate the harvest of fall. This means that one of my favorite fall fruits – apples – are at their peak.

Last weekend, I paid a visit to Gizdich Ranch, an apple farm in Watsonville. They were celebrating the apple harvest with their annual apple butter festival. There were displays of antique tractors, arts and crafts and live music. That was in addition to the antique barn, pie shop and retail store that is open throughout the year.

If the scent of the pie shop does not attract you first, it may be the sweet smell of fresh picked apples coming from the retail shop. Located in a small, red barn, it houses many varieties of apples, including the red delicious, Granny Smith, pippin and Fuji. They also have lesser-known varieties such as winter banana, winesap and one of my favorites, the honey crisp.

On this particular day, the scent of the apple butter was very noticeable as it permeated the coastal air and found its way to the festival visitors. If you are not familiar with apple butter, it is similar to applesauce. However, it is cooked and reduced over a long time, which develops a much more concentrated taste. Apple butter is also very thick and its natural sugars are caramelized.

The apple butter was cooking outside in a large copper pot that must have been 20 gallons. It was fueled by a large gas burner and a wooden paddle on a long two-by-four served as the stirring apparatus. Although my friends and I did not sample the hot apple butter, we tasted some that was ready.

I couldn’t help to think that apples could be grilled too. Up to this point, I had not experimented with grilling apples. With my newly found inspiration, I set out to research and experiment.

I found a few recipes when I searched for grilled apples on the Internet. Many suggested grilling apples until they are soft and cooked, then dusting them with cinnamon and sugar after they are done. I didn’t like the texture this method produced. I also prefer to complement apples with a little bit of butter.

I started with a cored and peeled apple and sliced it into four, equally thick, round pieces. After grilling each side for a few minutes, I brushed butter on both sides, followed by cinnamon and sugar. Unlike the other recipes, I returned the apples to the grill to allow the sugar to caramelize.

As autumn comes into full swing, keep your grill going late into the season. This grilled apple recipe is only the beginning to what can make an ordinary autumn a special one. Serve these grilled apple slices alone or paired with vanilla ice cream.

Grilled Apple Slices

(From Mitch Mariani; Serves 4-6)

2 apples, peeled and cored

2 tablespoons melted butter

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Step 1: Preheat grill to a high heat setting. Slice the peeled and cored apples into four round, equally thick slices. If you will not be grilling the apples right away, submerge them in water with a little lemon juice. Mix the sugar and cinnamon.

Step 2: Place the sliced apples directly on the grill. Grill each side for about 5 minutes, until they begin to become a little pliable, but not soft.

Step 3: Brush the slices with melted butter and allow the excess butter to drip away. Coat the buttered apple slices in the cinnamon and sugar mixture and shake off the excess.

Step 4: Return the apple slices with the cinnamon and sugar back to the grill. Grill each side for about 45 seconds so that the sugar bubbles and becomes browned.

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