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In Autumn, It’s All About Apples!

IRELAND HOPPING | By Margaret M. Johnson

Part II

Apples are one of the most popular and important fruits in both Ireland and America. With over 2,500 varieties in the United States alone, it’s no wonder it’s challenging to know which apple is best for the recipe you’re making. Some are better for baking, while others work best for dishes like applesauce or apple Charlotte. Check the list of “Apples A-Z” for some of the most popular varieties, and don’t be afraid to mix and match apples along with other fruits like cranberries and dates.

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For the filling

1 cup raisins

1 cup chopped dates

1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar

3 tablespoons dark rum

1 teaspoon mixed spice or

1/2 each cinnamon and nutmeg

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

4 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced

For the crumble

1 cup flour

1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/4 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, for serving

  1. Make filling. Preheat oven to 375° F. Butter a 9-inch baking dish.

  2. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine raisins, dates, brown sugar, rum, butter and spices; microwave on high for 1 1/2 minutes, or until butter is melted and mixture is syrupy. Add juice and zest of lemon and apples; toss to coat. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and spread evenly.

  3. Make crumble. In a large bowl, combine flour and butter. With your fingers, rub butter into flour until large clumps form. Stir in sugar, oats and pecans; scatter over apple mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes; remove foil and bake for 30 minutes longer, or until crumble is golden and filling is bubbling. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.



For the cake

4 large tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped

Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 large eggs

2 cups sugar

1 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

3/4 cup dried cranberries

For the icing

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature

4 tablespoons butter

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a 13- x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

  2. In a large bowl, toss apples with zest and juice of 1 lemon; set aside.

  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla. In another large bowl, sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Stir into egg mixture until well combined. Fold in apples, walnuts and cranberries.

  4. Transfer batter to prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack for 1 hour. Invert cake onto rack, remove parchment, and then return to upright.

  5. Make icing. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and butter. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until smooth. Add confectioner’s sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Spread icing on cake and refrigerate for about 1 hour, or until firm, before cutting.

Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page now includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, including how to order her cookbooks, visit

Apple Date Crumble with Pecans.


Braeburn: a sweet-tart flavor with a texture that remains firm when it's baked. An all-purpose apple, it works well in pies and tarts where you don't want the filling to be overly juicy.

Cortland: juicy and slightly tart with bright red skin and white flesh. This is an excellent baking apple to use in pies, cobblers, and crisps. Cortland is also excellent for salads and cheese plates because the flesh doesn't brown and discolor quickly.

Empire: a cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious, this apple is firm-textured and sweet-tart in taste. It’s a good all-purpose apple for juice, sauce, pies, baking, salads, eating fresh, and drying.

Fuji: firm, crisp, and juicy, Fuji is popular for both eating and baking because it holds its shape when cooked.

Gala: crisp and sweet with a mild flavor, Galas have yellow-orange skin with red striping. They’re terrific for salads, applesauce, and pressing into cider.

Golden Delicious: sweet with a rich, mellow flavor. This is a good all-around cooking apple that maintains its shape after baking.

Granny Smith: crisp and quite sour, this is one of the most popular tart apples. It’s a good all-purpose cooking apple and is often paired with sweeter, spicier apples in pies and crisps.

Honeycrisp: crisp and juicy with a honey-sweet and tart flavor. A fairly new apple variety, it’s a great eating apple and good for baking and applesauce.

Jonagold: tangy and sweet, this apple is a blend of Jonathan and Golden Delicious. With a yellow-green base and a blush stripe, it’s excellent both for eating and for cooking.

Jonathan: tart with a rich, slightly spicy flavor. It holds its shape well when baked and is also good in salads and for applesauce.

Macoun: sweet and aromatic, this apple is excellent for snacking, in salads, and in sauce. With bright red skin and juicy white flesh, it makes a splash on a cheese plate.

McIntosh: juicy and crisp, this popular eating apple has bright red skin with green undertones. A McIntosh tends to break down when cooked, so it’s best paired with Golden Delicious or other apples in pies and other baked goods.

Mutsu: juicy, sweet and super crisp, this large, yellow-green fruit (also known as Crispin) has a sweet, refreshing flavor and is great for eating, in salads, and for baking.

Northern Spy: crisp, white, juicy flesh with a sweet-tart flavor. Stores well and is good for baking and juicing.

Winesap: firm and aromatic with a spicy bite. A sweet-flavored apple, it’s good in sauces and for baking.