Unless you grew up with apple trees in your backyard, you might not think of apples as a native crop to Mississippi. Our great ancestors, living on homesteads from the Delta to the Gulf Coast, would have enjoyed apple varieties adapted to their specific climate. Your great-great-grandparents wouldn’t have ever seen or recognized today’s popular apples, such as red delicious or granny smith. Thanks to fruit explorers and orchardists, some of Mississippi’s heirloom apples are making a comeback.
Move over Johnny Appleseed. We thank Captain Davis for bringing a sweet, crisp, and juicy apple variety to Mississippi and the South. Captain Davis of the Confederate army was discharged in North Carolina at the end of the Civil War and headed home to Kosciusko. While traveling back on foot, he found an apple tree, bearing the best apples he had ever eaten. He pocketed some of the seeds and planted them at his Mississippi home, where the trees proved to be resilient to our heat, productive, and fragrant. The Captain Davis apple is green with a red blush, along with a sweet, crisp, and juicy taste.
You don’t have to be an apple expert to enjoy this exceptionally healthy fruit. Apples are one of the most popular fruits and for good reason. Children and adults enjoy snacking on raw apple slices, sometimes dipping them into peanut butter or paring them with cheddar cheese. Whole apples are durable with a reasonably long shelf life, making them perfect for backpacks, gym bags, and desk drawers. Whenever you need a quick snack or nutritious sweet ending to lunch, it’s’ there for you. Not to mention, in the fall season, a bowl of apples is as decorative as it is delicious.
When apples are abundant in the market, it’s time to start cooking. Think past the traditional pie, and bake apple muffins, add diced apples to weeknight sautés, or make applesauce at home. Use applesauce in your favorite baking recipes, apple or not, to trim down the saturated fat calories linked to heart disease. Replace half the amount of butter in any baking recipe with store-bought or homemade applesauce. If a recipe calls for a cup of butter, use half a cup of butter and half a cup of applesauce.
Mississippians might not have the same varieties of apples from long ago, but savoring a slice of warm apple pie stands the test of time.
All you need is a bowl and a whisk to mix up the batter and bake. Use a tart, crisp apple that holds its shape, like a Granny Smith, Rome, or Honeycrisp apple. This makes a batch of 12 muffins, the perfect amount for a weekend breakfast without leftovers. You can easily double the recipe for up to 24 muffins.
½ cup butter (1 stick), melted
½ cup of sugar
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg, beaten
½ cup applesauce (unsweetened)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups self-rising flour + 1 tablespoon reserved
1 ½ cups of fresh apples, peeled and finely chopped*
powdered sugar (for dusting, optional)
Preheat oven to 425F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with liners and spray. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and cinnamon. Whisk well. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Then add in the melted butter and apple sauce. Whisk well. Fold in flour mixture slowing, mixing by hand till combined. Toss diced apples with reserved flour before adding to the batter. Gently fold apples into the batter. Spoon in about ¼ cup of batter into muffin tins. Bake at 425F for 5 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350F and continue baking for 15-20 minutes. You want your muffins golden brown or give it the ole toothpick test. Allow muffins to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove the muffins to finish cooling on a wire rack or pan.
*You can peel and cube your apples, add them to a food processor for 2-5 pulses if you prefer not to dice by hand.