Up in the field of the farm stand two very, very old apple trees. One is sort of like a Yellow Delicious – only with a hint of tart, and the other is probably close to a Macintosh. Apples are funny fruits in that their seeds are not true to the fruit. If I were to plant the seeds from one of these trees, the new tree would produce fruit that is nothing like the original tree. I’ve done this, but it takes close to six years for a fruit tree to fruit, so until then I have no idea what kind of apple I’ll end up with. It’s a fun experiment, non-the-less.
In the meantime I’ve been eating my ancestor’s apples and this week, after a long hot summer, they’re finally ready. I’ll press many of them into cider and ferment it into hard cider to keep me warm all winter, but I’ll also spend the next couple months eating apples in everything. By the time December rolls around I’ll be sick and tired of apples. And, I like that feeling. Just like asparagus in the spring and tomatoes in the summer, apples have their own season. I could keep them in the fridge for months, but they’ll never taste as good as October apples do. I eat them in the fall until I can’t stand another sweet-tart crunch and then I’ll stop. By next fall I’ll be brimming with anticipation for apples.
One of my favorite fall lunches is apple-chicken salad. The apples provide a nice crunch and a wanted sweetness. And I’ve got a great technique to cook the most tender chicken. It gently poaches in stock for an hour. I turn it over a couple times to ensure even cooking, but 15 minutes into the poach, I turn the heat off. The chicken sits in the hot stock and very, very slowly cooks though. Try it. You’ll never poach a chicken any other way again.
If you don’t happen to have heirloom apple trees in your back yard, Macintosh apples make a great substitute.
Fall Apple-Chicken Salad
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 garlic head, halved crosswise
1 bunch scallions, coarsely chopped
1 hot chile, halved
1 (3-to 4-lb) whole chicken
3 Macintosh apples, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
freshly ground black pepper
Bring the stock, soy, sugar, salt, garlic,scallions, and chile to a simmer in a heavy pot just big enough to hold the chicken.
Add the chicken, breast-side down, and cover pot (the chicken will not be completely submerged). Simmer 15 minutes. Turn chicken over and turn heat off. Cover and let stand 30 minutes. Turn chicken over again and let stand covered, 15 minutes.
Remove chicken and let cool.
Shred chicken and skin, if desired. Stir chicken together with apples, celery, onion, mayonnaise, and black pepper. Season with salt to taste and serve on rolls.