Orchard apples are far more fun than supermarket apples. (Yes, yes, supermarket apples come from orchards, too, but still.) They are not uniform in size, they are not picked before they are ripe so that they can be shipped, and, perhaps most importantly, they are not Red Delicious apples. Sadly, there are no U-Pick farms close enough for me to get to without a vehicle and a designated driver, so I am forced to rely on the leftovers from friends who do go apple-picking and what I can get myself at the local garden supply place.
There is no recipe for baked apples, at least as far as I’m concerned; it’s whatever’s in the house. In this case, I had some juice to get rid of (which is why there was so much extra liquid), plus the almost-done rose hip jam to finish, plus I have to find uses for the dreadful sugar-free preserves I got on a well-intentioned whim (sadly, all you taste is Splenda), plus the plum that was going to go bad before it got ripe, plus some of the frozen cranberries from last year that I need to finish up because it’s almost time to jam another six pounds into the freezer, plus some raisins that are the last of their box. Throw in a little cinnamon and cloves and there you go. This time.
It looks all pretty now. And yes, those are tiny apples.
It drops in aesthetics with the addition of liquids and jam.
And then loses it entirely. My preferred baking apples are Rome apples, since they are big and beefy and hold up well; MacIntosh apples tend to explode on me. But, Macs are what I had, so Macs are what I cooked.
I like cooking with cranberries because not only are they good for you on the antioxidant front — and are tasty — but they are also loaded with pectin, which is a natural thickener, which in turn is a very helpful thing when making compotes and baked fruits or, as this turned out, sort of both at once. The apples were still warm in the picture above, but once they were cooled and fridged for a day, the juices had coagulated a bit and while it is now looser than any conserve, it’s not liquidy at all.
The other side of working with cranberries, however, is that they are tart. You’ll notice I didn’t use any additional sweetener apart from whatever was in the juice and jam, so this is not a sweet dessert — there’s no real pucker, but it’s not candied apples, either. For those of you who don’t like their fruit straight-up, make sure to add sufficient sugar (brown or white) or honey.