About now, you may find yourself humming, “God didn’t make little green apples/And it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime …” as you survey your yard, walk by a park or eye a neighbor’s bounty.
Sometimes called June apples, Lodi apples or Transparents, those little green apples are everywhere. Crisper, greener and more tart then their fall-ripening cousins, they are too small and too sour to eat out of hand. You don’t want to spend too much time in a hot kitchen, much less turn on the oven — but you don’t want them to go to waste either.
One simple way to make a dent in that windfall of little green apples is to turn them into a tart, fried summer applesauce. If you don’t peel them, very little labor is involved although you do have to keep an eye on the stove, so the sauce doesn’t burn before it caramelizes.
You can use the recipe that follows, adapted from a 2014 posting on plainclothesfeast.wordpress.com, as a guideline.
TART FRIED APPLESAUCE
About 8 cups sliced little green apples, unpeeled
About ¼ cup butter
Pinch of salt
2/3 to 1 cup sugar, more if apples are very tart
1 lemon, juiced
Add the lemon juice to a large bowl of water. Rinse, slice and core the apples. (You can peel them if you like, but it’s not necessary. The skins will soften as they cook and add some texture to the sauce.) Drop the apple slices into the bowl of lemon water as you go to keep them from turning brown.
Melt the butter in a large, heavy pan. A cast-iron skillet works well. Drain and rinse the apple slices in a colander, shaking off as much water as you can. Add the apples to the hot butter and partially cover the pan, allowing some moisture to evaporate. Let the apples begin to break down and brown, then stir and partially cover them again.
When the apples begin to caramelize (turn brown at the bottom of the pan) scrape them up, turn down the heat down to low and sprinkle about 2/3 cup of the sugar over the top of the apples. Don’t stir it in. Let it melt and trickle down to the bottom of the pan. Partially cover again for a few minutes, then stir and taste. Uncover the pan and continue to cook over very low heat, adding more sugar as needed.
When the apples have completely broken down and all the sugars have melted and browned, you will have a thick, caramel-flavored sauce flecked with bits of skin and apple: a perfect topping for ice cream, pancakes or biscuits. You can also use it to fill hand pies or just eat it with a spoon.
To vary the recipe, you can fry the apples in bacon drippings instead of butter, use brown instead of cane sugar and finish the sauce with some ground cinnamon or nutmeg.
The finished sauce will keep in the refrigerator for several days, or you can spoon it into Ziplock bags and freeze it once it has completely cooled.