Sunday, June 16, 2024

Mexican-grown apples are small but flavorful and crunchy all the same

I have to say that apples – reliably crisp, sweet/tart, juicy – are one of the things I really missed when I moved to Mexico.

To be sure, there were mangos and papayas galore, incredible pineapples and fresh coconuts, but I still missed a good ol’ apple. Eventually, though, I discovered that “real” apples could indeed be found at certain times of the year, grown not in the hot coastal region where I lived but in the mountains a few hours inland.

(My guess is that those of you who live in those areas know this already.)

Granted, most of the apples you can find in Mexico are imported; like consumers everywhere, Mexicanos prefer perfect-looking fruit. These locally grown manzanas are smaller and not perfect, but have the flavor, crunch and aroma of an actual apple. Yay!

In a previous life I’d been the food writer at a daily newspaper in Santa Cruz, California, and my job sometimes included judging the apple pie contest at the local county fair. It’s not as fun as you’d think; people add all sorts of strange ingredients to their apple pies and you have no idea that the one you’re about to taste has, say, too much cumin in the filling. We learned to talk while smiling, to warn our judge-mates not to take too big a bite.

Imported apples are readily available; Mexican varieties at certain times of the year.
Imported apples are readily available; Mexican varieties at certain times of the year.

So when I learned about an apple-pie-made-with-no-apples-that-tastes-just-like-the-real-thing, I knew I had to make it and see for myself. It sure seemed like part of my job to test such an outrageous claim.

The Mock Apple Pie in question is made with Ritz crackers, and is apparently a Depression-era recipe. The crackers are soaked in a cinnamon-sugar syrup and baked in a regular pie crust – crumb, lattice, whatever. While you’re assembling it, it looks just like what it is: a cracker-filled pie shell. But once baked, it tastes like and has the mouth-feel of real apples. I kid you not! And with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on top, it’s hard to tell the difference.

But don’t take my word for it. Since you’ve got all that time on your hands, try it yourself and see. Let me know what you think, OK?

Mock Apple Pie

You must use real Ritz crackers in order for this to taste its best – don’t substitute generic copycat crackers.

  • 1 cup sugar (all white or half brown or piloncillo)
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • Scant 2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 pie crusts, made from scratch or frozen
  • 30-36 Ritz Crackers, coarsely broken (about 1-3/4 cups)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
  • ½-1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Mix sugar and cream of tartar in medium saucepan. Gradually stir in water. Bring to boil on high heat; simmer on low 5 minutes or until mixture is reduced to 1½ cups. Stir in juice; cool 30 min.

Heat oven to 425 F. Make pie crust: roll out one crust on lightly floured surface to 11-inch circle; place in 9-inch pie plate. Arrange whole crackers in crust. Carefully pour sugar syrup over crackers; dot with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon.

For top crust, make a crumb topping or roll out remaining crust to 10-inch circle; place over pie. Seal and flute edge. Cut several slits in top crust to permit steam to escape. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Prawn, Jicama and Apple Salad with Mint & Dijon Dressing

Fresh lemongrass (hierba de limón) is available widely in Mexico not because of Asian cooking but because it’s traditionally used as an herbal tea.

  • 1 cup matchstick-cut Granny Smith apple
  • 1 cup matchstick-cut jicama
  • ½ cup matchstick-cut carrots
  • ½ cup fresh mint leaves
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh lemongrass (available in most grocery stores, or mercados)
  • 2 sprigs cilantro

Cook shrimp in boiling water until pink on the outside and no longer transparent in the center, 3-5 minutes. Drain with cold water to cool completely. Peel, devein and slice shrimp in half lengthwise; set aside.

Toss apple, jicama and carrots together in a large bowl. Place mint, olive oil, sugar, vinegar, mustard, garlic and lemongrass in a food processor or blender and pulse quickly until slightly chunky. Pour dressing over apple mixture and toss gently. Cover and refrigerate salad and shrimp separately until ready to serve, then mix together and garnish with cilantro. –

Turkey Apple Sandwiches with Maple Mayonnaise

Say whaaat?! Yes, these flavors go together fabulously!

  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1½ tsp. maple syrup
  • ½ lb. sliced turkey or smoked turkey
  • 1 apple, thinly sliced
  • 4 slices bread of choice

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise and maple syrup; spread on bread, top with turkey and apple slices and then the remaining bread. –

An apple and turkey sandwich, a fabulous combination of flavors.
An apple and turkey sandwich, a fabulous combination of flavors.

Quick Sautéed Apples

Serve for dessert with vanilla ice cream, as a side with pork or chicken, or for breakfast with granola or oatmeal.

  • 4 apples, peeled and sliced (about 2 lb.)
  • ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 Tbsp. butter

Mix first four ingredients in a bowl or large zip-top plastic bag. Transfer to saucepan, add water and butter, and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until apples are tender.

Janet Blaser of Mazatlán, Sinaloa, has been a writer, editor and storyteller her entire life and feels fortunate to write about great food, amazing places, fascinating people and unique events. Her work has appeared in numerous travel and expat publications as well as newspapers and magazines. Her first book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, is available on Amazon. Contact Janet or read her blog at

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