SEASONAL SMOKEY BAKED APPLES WITH SWEET STUFFING
Apple season is here and I’ve found some beauties to make a simple but super sweet and flavorful recipe. And of course, I’m taking it to the grill to let the apple get a kiss of smoke while tenderizing. With so many varieties of apples available, you can pick your favorite and use this filling for the perfect stuffed apple.
In my home state of New York, there are over 25 varieties of apples. Since these can be cold stored, they are available year-round but there is nothing like the fresh harvest. In fact, controlled atmosphere storage was pioneered in New York State.
Whether served as the dessert or a sweet side dish is up to you but either way, you’re going to love the ease of making this dish and consuming all its seasonal goodness. Pick your favorite variety of apple and get ready to stuff them with goodness everyone is going to love! Smokey baked apples done on the grill, cleanup is a breeze!
I’ll be using my gas grill for this recipe so I start by lighting only half the burners on my grill which I’ve added a smoker box that contains 3 hardwood chunks. This will provide for the great smoke flavor to the apples. While the grill heats up to about 375°F, I prepare the Macintosh apples. First, wash and pat dry the apples. You can use an apple corer to remove the core but note you do not want to produce a clean hole through the entire apple. We want to produce an opening for adding the stuffing but we don’t want it to run out of the apples. I like to use a small, sharp knife, cut into the apple stem end about ¾-inch from the stem making a circle. Remove the core membrane and seeds leaving a firm base to the apple for filling.
Tasting Notes: Although I’ve selected Macintosh apples to know any variety will do. Just note, if the apples are significantly larger, you will need to make an additional filling.
With our apples cored, it’s time to make the sweet filling before heading to the grill. First, know I like to use a disposable foil pan to make clean up a breeze. In that pan, I place a roasting rack so the apples will be exposed to radiant heat all the way around the apple. I’m making ten stuffed apple but I will give you the ingredients needed for making eight apples.
Place 1 stick of softened butter in a bowl. Add 1 cup of light brown sugar, ½ cup chopped pecans, and 1–1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon. I prefer to mix this with my hand to ensure good distribution of the ingredients. Taking a small amount of the mixed filling, I form a log shape and insert into the apple opening, pressing down to make sure this is filled to the top of the apple. Once all the apples are filled, I head to the grill with my pan.
Tasting Notes: The stuffing for this apple recipe can be easily modified. Feel free to swap the pecan for another nut like walnut, hazelnut or almond. For spices, consider adding ginger, allspice, and clove either in addition to or in place of the cinnamon.
No Fuss Grilling
Once at the grill, I check to ensure my wood chunks are smoking well. I place my pan of prepared apples on the unlit side of the grill and pour enough water into the pan to coat the bottom by about 1-inch. This will allow moisture into the cooking area to get the apples very tender in a short amount of time. I usually check the apples after 45 minutes and rotate the pan if needed. When the apples are tender and the filling browned, these are ready and can be removed from the grill-#grilledapples.
Tasting Notes: Note that if you elect to use a charcoal grill the smoke infusion produced will be stronger. You are encouraged to still use a two-zone set up on the charcoal grill to keep the sugars from burning.
Serve ’Em Up
Once the apples are tender and the filling browned, it’s time to remove the apples and prepare to serve them. There are many options for an accompaniment to the apples. Today, I’m using a vanilla bean ice cream that I’ve sliced into wedges. Certainly, the apples can be served with whipped topping, another flavor of ice cream, a vanilla custard or pudding, or even a slice of hard or rind cheese. These are best if served warm. Don’t forget, if any filling is left, add to a pureed squash for another great recipe. That’s why I always make extra!