Since the days of Adam and Eve, apples have made people happy. Streusel, pie, upsidedown cake and cobbler, as well as apples straight from the tree (or the supermarket), make my family smile.
This year, I’m the lucky one because Kelowna’s orchard-fresh fruit is easy to find, and close by.
Hazeldell Orchards (on Byrns Road), owned by Allen and Wendy Reid, was busy the morning I visited. Apples and pears were being sorted, and customers were asking questions about how to store the fruit.
When Wendy and I got to chat, she told me the property had been in Allen’s family since 1903 and that by the time she and Allen married in 1991, it was almost 100 per cent pear trees. They started planting apple trees, which now make up one-third of the orchard, in 1994. They have a great selection of apples and pears.
I love apple names as they sound so cheery: Sunrise, Gala, Ambrosia, Silken, Aurora Golden Gala, and Fuji. None are called, “Depression, Sad, or Sorry,” although some apples, like Granny Smiths, are more sour than sweet.
Ambrosia apples (available now) have a wonderful B.C. story. In the early ’90s in Wilfrid and Sally Mennell’s Similkemeen Valley orchard, a new apple tree from a chance seedling was discovered by pickers, who promptly ate all the fruit because it was so delicious.
The owners eventually found the tree and also loved its apples. After experimenting to be sure the fruit was reproducible, they went on to market the apple and license other farmers around the world to grow it.
Ambrosia apples, grown by Kelowna farmers, are a crunchy B.C. success. My mother, Betty, would have loved them as they don’t turn brown when cut.
She was a prolific dessert maker who, for most of her life, made everything from scratch. Her recipe for Apple Brown Betty is now used by my children, including My-Son-the-Chef, who makes it for adoring crowds in the fall. Its baking aromas remind me of oven dinners and it tastes like childhood, especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Ambrosia apples would shine in this recipe, but so would other local varieties.
Here is mom’s recipe.
Apple Brown Betty
1/4 cup water
4-6 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced (thinly or thickly, your choice)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup uncooked quick rolled oats
cinnamon to taste
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup very soft butter
Use a buttered (or sprayed) 2-quart casserole dish. Put 1/4 cup water in the bottom. Add the apples. No need to mix. You may add cinnamon if you wish to the apples and the topping or just one or the other, depending on how much you like it.
Mix together the brown sugar, flour, oats, cinnamon, if using and vanilla. Add the soft butter and mix until very well combined.
Sprinkle evenly over the apples.
Bake at 350º until the topping is brown and the apples are soft, about 25-30 minutes. Serve warm. Especially good with ice cream.
— Brenda McMillan is a Toronto-based freelance journalist with a passion for good food, good wine, sunshine and travel. She fell in love with th Okanagan (and a Kelowna fellow) so is staying for the summer and fall and is writing about our Valley from a newcomer's perspective.