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Celebrating Good Keepers: Apple Pies And Apple Butter

Today on Earth Eats we're talking about something that never goes out of style: apples! Although apples have a peak season from September to November, some varieties are what are known as "good keepers," meaning that they can be kept in storage for a long time after they're harvested.

Later in the episode we'll help you use some cooking apples to make apple pie and apple butter, but first, we talk with a man who knows more than a few things about apples, Gary Nabhan.

Gary Paul Nabhan: The Diversity of Apples

Gary Paul Nabhan is an ethnobotanist, professor and author of several books. He has been called the "Father of the Local Food Movement" (although he prefers the label "bio-terroir'ist").

Nabhan really puts his money where his mouth is with the whole local eating lifestyle. He only eats foods found within a 220-mile radius of his home in Arizona.

We sat down with Gary Nabhan and he told us that:

We ought to promote the notion of good keepers as something that we want in our community again whether they're people or apples.

We couldn't agree more, and Nabhan is a man who knows a thing or two about apples. He recently wrote a piece for Slow Food USA that called for 2010 to be "The Year of The Heirloom Apple."

Watch: Nabhan Talks About Apple Diversity In The US

We have our complete interview with Gary Paul Nabhan up on the blog. He talks a lot about biodiversity, the slow food movement, his own experience eating local, and, of course, a lot more about apples. Read More »

Grandma's Apple Pie with Sweet Seasons and Ginger

According to Gary Nabhan's way of thinking, Chef Orr has a southern mentality – he likes tart apples in his pies. But, tart or sweet, however you like it... this is a tasty way to celebrate apples.


For the crust:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • ½ cup finely ground blanched almonds
  • ½ pound lard or butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon brown sugar
  • 3 to 6 tablespoons water, very cold

For the filling:

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Sweet Seasons Spice Blend (recipe follows)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger- freshly minced
  • 3 pounds apples- sliced in ¼ inch thick wedges
  • ½ cup white raisins
  • ¼ cup bourbon or calvados
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Cut the lard into 1/2 inch cubes, chilled in freezer for at least 45 minutes.
  2. In a food processor, combine flour, almonds, salt and brown sugar, pulse to mix. Add frozen lard and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of fat. Add water 1 Tablespoon at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together. If it doesn't add a touch more water.
  3. Remove dough from machine and place on a clean surface. Form dough into two round discs. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before continuing.
  4. Remove dough from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on top of the disk. Roll them out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. Place one on to a 9-inch pie plate and return the other to the fridge until needed.
  5. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  6. Combine all ingredients for the pie filling mixture
  7. Spoon in apple filling, mounding slightly in center. Roll out second disk of dough, as before. Gently turn over onto the top of the apples in the pie. Pinch top and bottom of dough rounds firmly together. Trim excess dough leaving a 3/4 inch overhang. Fold dough under and crimp to seal.
  8. Cut slits in top crust to allow steam to escape. Brush with a little water and sprinkle with some sugar. Bake pie until crust begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F. Cover edges with a little foil.
  9. Continue to bake until crust is golden in the center and juices are thickened and bubbling. About 30 to 45 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack for at least an hour.
  10. Serve with a slice of good cheddar cheese, whipped cream or ice cream.

Sweet Seasons Spice Blend

  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 stick cinnamon (1/2")
  • 1/2 teaspoon annatto seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon pomegranate powder
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 pieces star anise
  • 2 pieces cloves
  • 1 piece mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground nutmeg
  • 2 bay leaves

  1. Grind fine in a spice blender
  2. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place

Homemade Apple Butter

On our last field trip to Chef Orr's family home in Columbus, Indiana the Earth Eats crew picked some apples from their apple tree and made the most delicious apple butter.


  • 8 cups apples
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 5 strips lemon zest
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • Sweet Seasons spice blend (recipe above with apple pie)
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • cranberry juice


  1. Bring apples, sugar, and spices to a boil
  2. Reduce heat and let simmer
  3. Puree in blender until smooth
  4. Store in an airtight container (make sure to label and date your containers!)

Next Week

Stick with us in the coming weeks as we give you recipes for some of weird winter vegetables – it turns out parsnips aren't as scary as you might think! And the change of seasons is finally upon us, which means a new batch of springtime recipes coming up in March and April.

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes to be sure not to miss it and tell us what you like to do with apples, leave a comment or drop us an e-mail: eartheats @

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