FAMILY RECIPES: Fall flavors include apples, parsnips in Carol’s family kitchen

Mom’s Apple Crumb Pie (News photo — Carol Swirsky)

What glorious fall weather we’ve been having. The nights and mornings a bit chilly, as expected, but I just love the crisp air that fall brings.

And, the bounty of delicious local produce. To savor this season, I have two family recipes that I’d like to share. One uses the fairly predictable apple, the other, not so much — the sometimes forgotten, unrecognized, just fairly recently come into public favor: parsnip.

Savor these and other fall favorites of your own, in new or traditional ways.

Mom’s Apple Crumb Pie

Grandma Sanford’s Parsnip Crisps (News photo — Carol Swirsky)

5 cups sliced apples

You can use whichever variety you like, the recipe in my “Cook’s Notebook” doesn’t specify. Some experts, one being J. Kenji Lpez-Alt, author of “The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science,” say Braeburn and Yellow Delicious are the best apples for pie. Granny Smith is tried and true as well. One cardinal rule that I did break at this baking, is homemade crust, for my mother a must. Sorry, Mom!

Arrange apples in an unbaked pie shell (9-inch deep dish)

Mix 1/2 cup sugar with 1 tsp. cinnamon

Sprinkle over apples

Mix 1/2 cup sugar with 3/4 cup flour

Cut in 1/3 cup butter/firm

Sprinkle over apples

Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Let cool completely before serving so that the sugars and pectin have a chance to set. You can always reheat slightly before serving.

Grandma Sanford’s Parsnip Crisps

A long, long time ago, I can still remember … my Grandma Sanford making sauteed parsnips for Thanksgiving every year. It was a ritual, a happening, a compulsory piece of the Thanksgiving feast.

I have no “recipe” for this; it’s one of those preparations that is just in my head, ingrained in my culinary memory. Repetition and ceremony put it there.

1 lb. parsnips, 4-6 depending on size, or as many as you like. This quantity serves about 4 people.

This recipe has a few steps, and takes some time and patience. But it’s worth the effort!

Peel parsnips and put in a pot of cold water, bring to boil, simmer until you can push a knife through the parsnip, with some resistance, but not too much. You still want them to be slightly firm, but you want them cooked through. Drain. Cool. Refrigerate overnight.

Because it takes a bit of time, it’s always good to have a helper for this process.

In our house, the parsnip making was a task that was handed on to the kids, as moms and dads took to more “adult” tasks in the Thanksgiving meal prep. If you don’t have a helper, it’s fine; you can always multi-task when cooking Grandma Sanford’s parsnips.

You want to start cooking the parsnips an hour or so before mealtime.

First, slice the chilled parsnips, lengthwise into 1/8th-1/4-inch slices. Now, break out the Westbend fryer. Set temperature to about 325. Melt an equal amount of butter and stick margarine, about 1 tablespoon each (stick is best for this, less water and air). When the butter is melted, line the pan with an even layer of parsnips, salt and pepper to taste. Let the parsnips cook until golden brown, then flip, and salt and pepper the other side. Some may cook faster than others, and a few flips may be required. And you can’t rush it! The slow, steady cooking results in a slight caramelization of the natural sugars in the parsnip, and when combined with the savory seasoning of salt and pepper, the texture and flavor are just outstanding.

Remove parsnips as they are crispish, but not burned. Continue in batches until they’re all done. Add more butter and margarine between batches. Keep warm until ready to serve, but be sure to test a few to make sure “they’re OK.” As the years have gone by, they’ve become as much an appetizer as a side dish!

Parsnips are much more readily available in today’s markets than when I was growing up, especially in the fall. As I made them for this article, it reminds me not to wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy this delicious, time-honored treat.

Cook’s Notebook quotable quote: “The art of dining well is no slight art, the pleasure not a slight pleasure.” Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist