Fall is a lovely time to visit the mountain areas of North Carolina. While visiting the grandchildren for Halloween weekend, we took a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway to picnic and enjoy the beautiful foliage. Along the way, we stopped at an apple orchard just over the border into Virginia. Visions of riding with the children on a hayride picking apples were dashed when the owner informed us that the season was short due to the summer heat, but we could still buy apples there. Along with the Mitsu, also known as the Crispin apple, we bought the Spartan variety, another good all-purpose apple; crimson in color, sometimes even deep purple. The Spartan is a fragrant apple with a good balance of sweet to tart flavor. Perfect for baking,using raw and a favorite among apple cider pressers. A member of the McIntosh family of apples, the Spartan is a cross between a McIntosh and a Newtown Pippin apple, a famous Colonial apple developed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The lighter, greenish yellow tinge of the Newtown Pippin is visible in the blush of the Spartan.
Knee deep in apples, I used some to make this Apple Sangria, a nice Fall version of this popular summer libation. Redolent with spices, honey, fresh ginger, citrus and chopped Spartan apples, this red wine based sangria will become a party favorite.
3 cups chopped Spartan apples
1/4 cup ginger honey
1/2 cup apple schnapps
3-4 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 slices fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4" pieces
1 large orange, quartered
1 lime, quartered
1 bottle, (750 ml.) Syrah or red wine of choice
1/4-1/2 cup club soda, or tonic water, chilled
For Garnish-slices of fresh lime, orange and Spartan apples. Optional-lemon balm sprigs
Combine first nine ingredients in a large measuring cup; combine well. Refrigerate until very cold, about 4 hours. Strain wine mixture through a sieve discarding solids. Pour about 2/3 cup sangria over ice in each glass; top with 1 tablespoon club soda. Garnish with citrus slices, apple slices and optional lemon balm sprig. Makes 4-6 servings. Original recipe-Cooking Light