It's time to get a bunch of apples and work them into savory dishes.
Apple picking is about a week earlier than usual at Reed Valley Orchard in Paris. Dana Reed said the trees are progressing well, with late varieties available through October.
"We'll probably be picking Pink Lady right after Halloween," he said.
In Michigan, where more commercial varieties are grown, some varieties have been picked out. The Michigan Apple Committee predicts the darling of varieties, the sweet and juicy Honeycrisp, will be sold out in about a month.
Third in the nation in apple production, Michigan produces more than 20 varieties of apples, most of which take well to cooking and baking. The tart varieties Granny Smith and Empire keep their shape better when cooked. Red and golden delicious apples tend to soften too much, but they can be used.
Pork and apples, of course, are a great match. For this recipe, fresh and dried apples are mixed with sautéed onions, currants, sage and hard cider to form a stuffing for a pork loin. The boneless pork loin is butterflied, and the stuffing is spread over the pork, which is then rolled and tied.
To butterfly means to slice the pork loin (you can use a pork tenderloin, too) down the center and almost through. Or, you can slice it from the side and almost through to the center. Just make sure you slice it evenly.
When you spread it open, like a book, it should lie flat. Sometimes I place a piece of plastic wrap over it and, using a mallet, pound the meat to an even thickness. This makes it easier to roll once you spread the stuffing on it.
The apples in this stuffing provide great flavor and help keep the pork moist.
Once the pork is done, be sure to let it rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.
Pork loin stuffed with fresh and dried apples
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, peeled, minced
1½ cups finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 tart apples, peeled, cored, chopped
1 cup chopped dried apples
3 tablespoons dried currants
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
12-ounces bottle dry hard cider
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 cups fresh apple cider
1 boneless pork loin, 4 to 5 pounds, trimmed of excess fat, butterflied.
6 sprigs fresh sage
2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 2 teaspoons cold water
In large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Add onions and ginger, and sauté 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Add fresh apples, and sauté 3 to 5 minutes, or until apples begin to turn light brown. Stir in dried apples, currants and sage. Pour in hard cider, and increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until hard cider is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and cool 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Using a roasting pan that has a rack, pour fresh apple cider into bottom of pan.
Lay butterflied pork loin flat on a work surface, and spread cooled stuffing evenly over meat. Roll up the loin, encasing the filling. Use kitchen string to tie loin at intervals, pushing in any stuffing that starts to come out the sides. Season meat with salt and pepper, and tuck sage springs under the strings. Place in roasting pan.
Roast about 1½ hours, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest point reaches about 145 to 150 degrees.
Transfer pork loin to cutting board, and let stand about 10 minutes before slicing. Meanwhile, if desired, pour pan juice into small saucepan and set over medium heat. Stir in cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil. Whisk until thickened.
Snip strings from roast, cut meat into slices and arrange on platter. Serve with sauce on the side if desired.
Makes 8 servings.
Adapted from An Apple Harvest by Frank Browning & Sharon Silva
Nutrition information per serving: 589 calories, 33 g. fat, 28 g. carbohydrates, 43 g. protein, 104 mg. sodium, 128 mg. cholesterol, 2 g. fiber.