Before it's too late, turn some Cortlands into a crisp

The last serving of a recent batch of apple crisp. Courtesy Jill Blanchette

I am a fan of the Cortland apple.

You can have your Macoun and your Honeycrisp, your Gala and your Winesap. I’ll take a Cortland over them all. It’s the perfect combination of sweet and tart and, when fresh, so juicy and crispy.

When I was a kid, we'd would go apple-picking every fall and always come home with a bushel of Cortlands. My mom would make apple dumplings, or apple slump, as she used to call it. She would stew the apples with a bit of sugar and when they were tender and bubbling, she’d drop dumpling dough on top, put the lid on the pan and let them steam to billowy perfection.

Sometimes she’d make them for a Sunday supper. She’d serve up a bowl of the hot apples, set a dumpling on top, then split it open and slip a pat of butter inside. So good.

When she’d run through her collection of apple recipes, she’d peel and slice what was left of the bushel and pop them into the freezer, only to pull them out later, to help us through the winter.

But of all my mom’s apple recipes, the one I make the most these days is her Apple Crisp. This recipe is quick and easy, and the result is buttery and crunchy with none of the doughiness of so many other crisp recipes.

Cortlands are excellent for baking because they hold their shape rather than turn to mush. Truthfully, in this recipe you can use whatever apple is your favorite, but whatever you do, don’t omit the lemon juice. You don’t end up tasting the lemon at all, but it adds a wonderful tartness that helps balance the sweetness of the apples and brown sugar, and it’s just not the same without it.

Over the years, I’ve made it a habit to add nuts or seeds — pecans and/or sunflower, if I have them — to the crumble topping. This amps up the crunch factor and the rich nuttiness goes so well with the oats and the apples. You can serve it hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting on top, or you can eat it at room temperature all by itself. I love it for breakfast.

So while the fruit is fresh, make some of my mom’s crisp. It’ll become one of your favorites, too. Enjoy!


Apple Crisp

4 cups peeled and sliced apples (Cortlands, please)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/3 cup flour

1 cup oatmeal

½ cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt (I use less - not more than half a teaspoon)

¾ cup nuts or seeds (I prefer pecans but walnuts and sunflower seeds are also good)

1/3 cup melted butter (I use unsalted butter)

Place apples into a greased (generously buttered), shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with lemon juice. In a bowl, combine dry ingredients and nuts. Add melted butter and mix until crumbly. Sprinkle crumb mixture over apples. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until apples are tender.

Jill Blanchette works at night at The Day. Share comments and recipes with her at

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