An apple a day keeps the doctor away, and can keep anyone else away if you fling it hard enough. But the prudent plan is to throw no apple parts anywhere, and certainly not away, because any tasty apple yields a core and skin nearly as flavorful as its flesh. Still, if eating the whole fruit out of hand isn’t your thing, all it takes is a little bit of attention to turn the trim into apple vodka, apple-ginger syrup, zesty gremolata and more.
Most of these ideas work best with a goodly pile of cores and skins, such as following a pie-baking session or run of apple butter. However, it is possible to accumulate critical mass one apple at a time by stashing the leavings in a freezer bag. Thick peelings and sturdy cores deliver more flavor, so leave a little meat on the bones, so to speak. And if you are concerned about the infinitesimal traces of arsenic found in apple seeds, just cut the core in half crosswise and pop them out with the tip of a knife.
- Like Apples and Oranges. Resembling a gremolata that cruised down Highway 101 from Washington to Southern California, this mixture adds a sprightly finishing touch when sprinkled over roasted root vegetables, roast pork or fowl, or a comforting bowl of black bean soup. Spritz the peels of a couple of tart apples with some lemon juice. Then, in a mini food processor (or with a sharp knife and cutting board) chop a scant handful of flat-leaf parsley, those peelings, a fat clove of garlic, the zest of an orange, and a pinch of salt until everything is minced and well-mixed.
- Drink It In. To make fragrant and flavorful spiced apple vodka, fill a squeaky clean one-quart glass jar with cores and peelings. Drop in a split and scraped vanilla bean and either a lightly crushed cardamom pod or two whole cloves. Fill the jar with vodka that falls somewhere between premium and rotgut, submerging the apple solids. Tightly close the jar and let sit at room temperature for at least three days. The longer it sits, the stronger the flavor. Gently shake the jar daily. When the flavor suits you, strain the liquid through a fine sieve or paper coffee filter and discard the solids. The vodka is good enough for straight sipping, but it’s great in autumnal cocktails or a mug of hot cider.
- A Different Kind of Apple Butter. For a seasonal compound butter, stir the finely chopped peelings from three or four large apples into a stick of room temperature butter. Sweeten to taste with good honey. It might be the best thing to happen to cinnamon-raisin toast, warm muffins, or piping hot roasted sweet potatoes; just split them open and butter lavishly.
- Sticky Fingers. Enjoy this gingered apple syrup with a cup of hot tea, oatmeal, cocktails, or even a cheese plate. Cheddar is a great choice, try a crumbly hunk of salty-sweet aged Gouda or a wedge of Mimolette; their natural caramel and butterscotch tones are a heavenly match for apples. To make the syrup, combine 2 cups apple juice, 2 cups water, 2 cups raw or Demerara sugar, 3 ounces thinly sliced fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon Grains of Paradise or black peppercorns, and 1 cup firmly packed apple skins. (Red apples give the syrup a rosy hue.) Simmer gently until the liquid reduces by half, about 45 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature, then strain. (While still warm, the sweet and tender peelings are delicious, like petals of apple confit.) Store the syrup covered and refrigerated for up to one month.
- Johnny Mustardseed. Stir together a heaping spoonful of grainy Dijon mustard with two heaping spoonfuls of finely chopped apple peel. Add half a spoonful of chopped fresh dill. Balance the flavors with a generous pinch of brown sugar and a touch of salt. This bold bread spread is delicious on ham or stretchy, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s also a quick sauce for salmon, whether roasted, grilled, hot-smoked, or cured.
- Take Stock. Pour 6 cups of chicken or light vegetable stock into a large saucepan. Add the cores and peelings from 8 to 10 apples along with ¼ cup of white wine or brandy. Simmer until the liquid reduces to 4 cups, then strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Apple stock is great for cooking plain couscous or white rice with a subtle sweetness and for cooking potatoes and/or other root vegetables for mashing. Or, make a quick and impressive soup by simmering winter squash and pasta in the stock. Just before serving, bless the bowl with a few toasted nuts, hearty herbs such as sage, and a swirl of browned butter.