I have much less experience as a baker than as a cook, so it was probably crazy of me to try and improvise a different and less boring version of apple pie on Thanksgiving. However, the result turned out very well for what we writers would call a “very rough first draft,” so I present it now for inspection and possible revisions. Note that I do not include a recipe for pie crust. I have learned the hard way never to suggest that others do not already possess the perfect pie crust recipe. Feel free to use your own.
Apple Pie Filling with Dried Fruits and Nuts
- 2 Tablespoons of butter, with 1-2 Tablespoons in reserve
- A spice blend of 1 Tablespoon cinnamon, 2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon ground allspice, divided into equal portions
- 1 pound of Fuji apples, cored, peeled, and cut into chunks about an inch wide and a 1/4 inch thick
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries (I used Trader Joe’s Orange-Scented cranberries)
- 1/2 cup toasted walnut baking pieces
- Equal parts orange juice and brandy, roughly 1/2 cup each
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1-2 teaspoons of freshly grated orange peel
- Mix the raisins and cranberries in a bowl. Cover completely with the OJ-brandy blend and let the concoction sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours.
- Mix the apples and one-half of the spice blend in another bowl and let sit at room temperature for the same amount of time as the dried fruit.
- When ready, drain the dried fruits, reserving the liquid. Stir in the walnuts.
- Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the remaining spices, shake the pan to spread them out in an even layer, and let cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add the apple chunks, stirring carefully to ensure that all of them are coated with the butter-spice mixture.
- Add the fruits and nuts, again stirring to ensure that everything is coated with spices. Add another 1 Tablespoon butter if it appears needed.
- Saute over medium heat for about 7 minutes.
- Stir in the brown sugar, orange peel, and 1-2 tablespoons of the reserved OJ-brandy blend. Stir until everything is thoroughly coated and the sugar has dissolved.
- You may also add more cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg and/or ground allspice to taste at this point.
- At this point you may remove the pan from the stove, let cool and continue with your favorite pie crust.
Any leftover OJ-brandy blend? Great! Serve it in cordial glasses with the pie, or save it for yourself. The flavor of brandy enhanced with orange juice and dried fruits is delightful.
The finished recipe also tastes greats as a crepe filling, on top of pancakes or waffles, or as a topping for vanilla ice cream. Or just by itself, topped with spiced whipped cream.
Of course you should feel free to substitute/add spices, replace the walnuts with almonds, or try other dried fruits such as apricots. I eagerly await suggested improvements.
You may also replace the brandy with bourbon or rum.
Vonn Scott Bair