Fall pairings: apples and cheese

NewsdayOctober 13, 2013 

  • Apple orchards in S.C. A selecio oft apple farms open for picking and buying

    Fisher’s Orchard, 650 Fisher Road, Greer; (864) 895-4115

    Ragan Orchards, 2230 S.C. 292, Inman (864) 472-5778

    Blue Haven Orchards, 12508 Long Creek Hwy. P.O. Box 191, Long Creek (864) 647-2855

    Chattooga Belle Farm, 454 Damascus Church Road, Long Creek, SC (864) 647-9768

    Round Mountain Apple Orchard, 880 Academy Road, Long Creek (864) 647-5112

    Nivens’ Apple Farm, Hwy. 290, Moore (864) 574-8889 or (864) 576-4195

    Bryson’s Apple Orchard, 1011 Chattooga Ridge Rd., Mountain Rest (864) 647-9427

    Windy Hill Orchard and Cider Mill, 1860 Hwy 5, York; (803) 684-0690

    Have other suggestions? Post your pick on the Eaton Wright Facebook page, www.facebook.com/eatonwright

Is there a simpler, more immediate pleasure than eating a just-picked apple?

Recently, I wondered if I was getting the most out of a favorite fall combination, apples and cheese. Was it a mistake to eat a Mutsu instead of a Fuji with my Cheddar? Would an empire make sense with a hunk of Parmesan?

Some research at a cheese shop confirmed that obsessive types like myself could attempt to match cheese with apples the way we’d match Manchego with a dry Tempranillo or Gruyere with a fruity riesling. Suggesting that he doesn’t fuss much with pairings as long as both cheese and apples are of high quality, owner Michael Cavaniola offered the idea of creamy Gorgonzola with Granny Smiths, the acidity of the apples helping to cut through the richness of the cheese. He also likes sweet-tart pink ladies with strong Stilton, maybe in a salad.

In general, strong cheeses mellow a bit when paired with sweeter fruit, while mild cheeses become more lively in the presence of tart specimens. Here are some pairing suggestions to get you started:

MILD AND NUTTY CHEESES

Gouda and Gruyere pair well with tart apples such as Granny Smith, Paula red and Mutsu. Try this combination in an apple, ham and grilled Gouda sandwich.

WASHED-RIND CHEESES

Tart apples also bring out the best in buttery, pungent washed-rind cheeses including Taleggio, robiola, and epoisses. Wrap a slice of apple and a slice of cheese inside a slice of prosciutto to enjoy the flavor contrasts.

SOFT-RIPENED CHEESES

Creamy, mild cheeses such as Camembert and Brie are good with sweet-tart apples such as honeycrisp and Jonagold. To make a Camembert and apple tart, arrange thinly sliced apples on a sheet of puff pastry and sprinkle with sugar. Brush edges with lightly beaten egg. Bake at 400 degrees until the apples are soft, about 20 minutes, top with thin slices of cheese, and return to the oven for a few minutes until cheese is melted.

FRESH, TANGY CHEESES

Goat cheese and feta go nicely with semi-tart apples including Cortland, empire and pink lady. Try apples and goat cheese on toasted or grilled bread or as a pizza topping. For a little sweetness, add caramelized onions and/or a drizzle of honey.

HARD, CRUMBLY, SALTY CHEESES

Parmesan, Pecorino Romano and asiago are best with the sweetest apples: red delicious, gala, Fuji, cameo. One of my favorite fall combinations is a salad of apples, celery root, cubed asiago and walnuts.

EXTRA-SHARP CHEESE

This is another case where sweet apples are best. The sharpness of Cheddar and Stilton is tempered by the sugar in a gala or red delicious. Slices of Cheddar served alongside apple pie are the classic example.


Apple And Cheddar Cake

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

6 tablespoons milk

1 cup extra-sharp grated Cheddar cheese

1 large sweet apple, such as a Gala, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch-round cake pan and dust with flour. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine butter and sugar in large mixing bowl and cream with electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary. With mixer on medium-low, add eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides of the bowl after each addition.

Turn the mixer to low and add half of the flour mixture. Stir in the milk. Stir in the remaining flour mixture until just combined. Stir in the Cheddar cheese and apple.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, invert it onto a wire rack, and then turn it right-side up on a rack to cool completely. Slice and serve. Makes 8 servings.

As cheese melts, it gets sticky. So grease and flour your pan well, even if it has a nonstick surface, before baking.

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