Spiked Apple Pear Crisp

The flavors in this dessert scream autumn, and with crisp autumn nights right around the corner, I wanted to share this recipe with you today.  I recommend enjoying it hot from the oven with a steamy mug of apple cider or a hot toddy and bask in the glory of all the goodies that autumn brings!

I used AppleJack in this recipe, which is a uniquely American spirit similar to apple brandy.  In the spirit of a new school year recently starting, I’ll give you a brief lesson on apple brandy and how it fits into American history.  Here’s the abridged version…

Early colonists were very skeptical of water, swearing that it was the root of most illnesses.  Once apple seeds were brought to America from Europe, the colonists readily pressed the apples, creating apple juice and cider which they much preferred to water since they viewed it as safer to consume.  Soon they began to ferment the pressed apples, creating hard cider in an effort to preserve it.  A Revolutionary War soldier serving under George Washington named William Laird began to distill the hard cider into “cyder spirits” (today’s apple brandy).  Laird gave some of the spirits to Washington, and the first president fell in love with the beverage.  He requested the recipe from the New Jersey-based Laird family so he could bring the spirit to Virginia, where it gained even more popularity.

The Laird family first began making this unique beverage in 1698, and Laird & Company continues to be the only company to produce it, still in New Jersey after all these years.  The company survived Prohibition by selling other apple products such as non-alcoholic cider and applesauce.  They were also granted special permission from the government to distill apple brandy for medicinal purposes.  As soon as Prohibition ended, Laird & Company sold AppleJack commercially and continues to do so today.  It should be available in your local liquor store.

Spiked Apple Pear Crisp
Yield:  12 dessert servings
Time:  10 minutes active;  45 minutes total

5 Bartlett or Bosc pears
3 Gala apples
3 Granny Smith apples
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. honey
¼ cup AppleJack (or apple brandy)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. flour

1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups oats
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 cup brown sugar

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Lightly grease a 9×13-inch glass baking dish.

2.  Peel and core the apples and pears.  Cut into bite-sized chunks.  Place in the prepared baking dish.

3.  Whisk together the brown sugar, honey, AppleJack, and lemon juice.  Drizzle over the fruit and toss to coat.  Sprinkle 1 tbsp. of flour over the fruit mixture, mixing gently to evenly distribute.  (I stuck mine in the fridge at this point for about 2 hours to give the fruit time to soak up the AppleJack.  If you don’t have time to marinate the fruit, just continue straight on to step #4!)

4.  In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the oats, flour, sugar, ginger and brown sugar.  Using a pastry blender, cut in the softened butter.  (Or you can work it in with your hands if you prefer.)

5.  Crumble the topping over the fruit.  Bake at 350°F for 25-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the juices released by the fruit are bubbling.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla or dulce de leche ice cream!

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