His name was John Chapman, born 1774, in Leominster Massachusetts, a tall, lanky and eccentric gentleman. He never married, instead believing he would be rewarded for his abstinence once he reached the Pearly Gates. Often clothed in tattered trousers or, on occasion long robes, Mr. Chapman was a great lover of animals and is reported […]
His name was John Chapman, born 1774, in Leominster Massachusetts, a tall, lanky and eccentric gentleman. He never married, instead believing he would be rewarded for his abstinence once he reached the Pearly Gates. Often clothed in tattered trousers or, on occasion long robes, Mr. Chapman was a great lover of animals and is reported to have been a vegetarian throughout his adult life. Who was this complicated yet sentimental man? You likely know him as Johnny Appleseed and he happens to be an ancestor to my dear chef-friend, Chappy.
Back in the early 1800’s Johnny spent much of his time, doing what we’ve all read about; broadcasting apple seeds throughout the Northwest Territory. This was an astute business decision on Johnny’s part, as he wasn’t prompted to spread seeds simply for the fun of it, but for profit. Knowing of the Ohio Company of Associate’s generous intention to award one hundred acres of land to frontiersmen considering a move further west beyond existing settlements. But proof the settlers truly intended to make their homesteads permanent was required. This was done by planting fifty apple trees and twenty peach trees on the property they planned to lay claim.
Johnny brilliantly figured out if he took on the difficult task of planting apple and peach seeds, (he was a Nurseryman by trade) he could flip the land and make sufficient money selling the established property to those incoming frontiersmen and their families. Since it took apple trees a good ten years to begin bearing fruit, Johnny was essentially staging the land for prospective buyers. Evidently “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” as my friend Chappy is as astute and entrepreneurial as his ancestral relative.
Unfortunately those trees Johnny planted didn’t exactly yield apples fit for teachers to eat and enjoy. Apples back in those days were quite tart and bitter. Better suited for use in Hard Cider and Applejack. Both these homebrewed beverages were consumed by men, women and children regularly, due to the fact one did not contract dysentery from drinking cider as was often the case with water.
Now, Johnny did more than just toss seeds from his knapsack, he was also adept at grafting (cutting back branches of an established tree and budding part if it onto another). Grafting was forbidden in parts of Europe at the time, as many believed it caused the plants to suffer. But here in America where we toss caution to the wind, Johnny and others like him began grafting apple trees until they ended up with a slew of those sweet apples we relish today.
As I sat writing this story I became curious about which of the thousand or so apples to choose from, thanks in large part to his Uncle Johnny, is Chappy’s favorite. His is Fuji, which is among the most fragrant, crisp and juicy of this 3,000 year old fruit. Fuji is actually a Japanese hybrid using two famously American apples, the Red Delicious and the Ralls Janet (an actual heirloom) created in 1930’s.
By the early 1900’s due to the efforts of Carrie Nation and her Temperance League, both serious opponents to alcohol and its relationship to evil, there emerged an atmosphere that shunned the drinking of hard cider. This was bad news for apples.
With the reduction in consumption of cider, apple growers saw their profits seriously decline. In response, increased grafting of apple trees occurred, creating a greater variety of edible versions. And, there was an additional twist. Somewhere along a clever marketing scheme citing apples as “healthy” materialized. This decree encouraged the general public to eat rather than drink these new, tastier apples. Buoyed by the now famous lexicon, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” apple cultivators saw profits shoot up like beanstalks towards the sky. Now apples were actually good for you and there were edible, flavorful choices to boot.
Simultaneously, the federal government began requiring states to educate children at least through elementary school level. This is when we begin to see apples make appearances on teachers’ desks. Just as it had been done in the 1600’s in Sweden and Denmark, American families, poor or not, compensated teachers with food; baskets of bread, a chicken or an apron full of fresh eggs. Slabs of pork (that was generous payment), and fruit, namely apples. Apples now wholesome and sweet, made sense as most frontier-families owned those hundred acre parcels upon which Johnny had planted the original apple and peach trees.
What about the apple a day to keep the doctor away? Why is that creed still holding up? It seems what began as a marketing ploy has been proven to hold some (dysentery-free) water. Recent research indicates a fresh apple has more than 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C in it. Not to mention vitamin E and a very high fiber content. Nutritionists suggest we eat apples with the skin on. Apples are said to help reduce growth of certain cancer cells as well as being a top source of quercetin, a plant chemical that appears to protect the lining of our blood vessels. Appears, apples do help keep doctors away.
So, Johnny Appleseed, the original DIY/Property-Flipper, with his apple planting obsession and growers dedicated to grafting and creating myriad apple varieties along with their genius ploy of promoting them as healthy; “Eat an apple upon going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread,” (the original slogan) has become a real benefit for teachers and apple lovers all across this great country of ours. From the original settlements in the wild frontier to current day, apples have cemented themselves as an integral part of gift giving and a nutritious diet.
I’ve yet to give one of those “Apple of Month Club” mail order gifts nor am I a school girl; however, I do enroll in classes frequently. The next time I take a class, instead of leaving an apple on the desk, I’m thinking I’ll give a homemade, Infused Apple Crostada! That way I’m combining the healthy aspects of two of nature’s bounty; apples and cannabis! A rather unique mode of compensation, I’d say.
Cosmic Muffin’s Infused Apple Crostada
INGREDIENTS FOR CRUST:
1 ¼ (6 ¼ ounces weighed) cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp fresh lemon zest
¼ (give or take) cup ice water
4 ounces canna-butter, cold, cut into ½ cubes
PROCESS for CRUST: Place flour, sugar, and salt in food processor or a large mixing bowl, pulse or stir with a fork to combine. By pulsing or using a pastry cutter, cut the canna-butter, a few pieces at a time, into dry ingredients until mixture looks like pea-gravel or sand.
Begin adding ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until dough comes together in a ball. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and flatten dough into a disk, about 6 inches in diameter. Cover completely in plastic wrap and allow dough to rest in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
INGREDIENTS FOR APPLE FILLING:
2 Gala, 2 Braeburn and 2 Gravenstein or York apples (about 6 apples total) peeled, seeded and sliced into thin slices
¼ cup raisins or currants
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cornstarch
¼ tsp fresh lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 whole egg mixed with 1 Tbsp half and half
1-2 Tbsp finishing sugar
1 Tbsp spoon canna-butter
Crème fraiche or vanilla ice cream for garnish as desired
PROCESS FOR FILLING:
Combine apples, brown sugar, raisins or currants, cinnamon, cornstarch, lemon zest and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Set aside until ready to use.
TO ASSEMBLE CROSTADA:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Remove crust from fridge and place disc on a lightly floured surface, using a rolling pin, roll dough out into a 9 inch circle. With a bench scraper or large spatula, move rolled crust onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or silpat. Mound apple filling into center of crust, leaving about a 1-2 inch margin around the edge. You may have some filling left over. If so, reserve the fruit mixture and add it to your morning smoothie or use it top a waffle or two.
Fold edges of crust towards the center. Don’t completely cover the fruit, you should be able to see the mound of apples and raisins.
Lightly brush the exposed crust with the egg wash. Sprinkle finishing sugar onto brushed crust and sprinkle a bit on the exposed fruit. Dot fruit with remaining canna-butter.
Place sheet pan in pre-heated oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until fruit is bubbling and crust is a golden brown.
Serve to your favorite teacher with a dollop of crème fraiche or vanilla ice cream.
Multi-faceted in her talents and interests, Deborah L. Costella has enjoyed expressing her creativity as a dancer, teacher, chef and writer, both in the Northern California Bay Area and Las Vegas Nevada. She has authored two cookbooks and has written numerous articles and newsletters for local publications in the Las Vegas Valley, with a focus on cooking. Deborah currently teaches cooking classes at Sur La Table and Cozymeal, as well as private in-home classes. She also provides personal chef services in both Las Vegas and the San Francisco Bay Area. She has yet another book in the works.