Cooking is one of my favorite pastimes. I am not entirely sure from where that interest stems, but I would like to think my Granny had something to do with it. I remember marveling at the outcome of requests for snacks such as pickles or french fries. I would expect, of course, for her to pull out a jar filled with limp, artificially colored pickles, the likes of which I see in the grocery store. But that was never the case. She gathered cucumbers from her garden, made her own brine with what she had, and they were always the most delicious pickles I had ever had. Usually a bit different each time. A lot of times I would simply request cucumbers sliced into spears with a sprinkling of salt on top. I think that was just about my favorite snack. And the fries never came from an Oreida bag. She would take a potato from the potato bin sitting below the window in the kitchen overlooking the back porch. She would then cut and fry the starch in a cast iron pan. I am not sure if I appreciated her hard work at the time as much as I do now, but I am sure I never loved or appreciated anything she made more than the apples.

Granny's apple tree
Every fall, Granny would gather apples that fell from her apple tree, which is still growing between the old cellar house and my dad's very first shop. She would then peel them. Have you ever seen someone who really knows what they are doing peel an apple? I have forever been amazed at this practice, and a few days ago while I was hacking the peel from some apples I was using to my one of my favorite fall brunch items (apple upside down biscuit cake), my thoughts returned to her and how she could peel an apple so perfectly without ever breaking the peel. Her small silver paring knife would glint in the light as she slowly and expertly peeled the apple, starting from the stem, and trimmed the peel in a beautiful spiral until it fell to the table in a single piece. Thinking back on it now, I can so clearly see her wrinkled hands, the back of the knife pressed hard into her thumb as she guided it slowly around the apple. The way she did that reminds me so much of how my dad carves on a mahogany guitar neck. I wonder if she enjoyed doing that as much as I know my dad enjoys whittling.

After she peeled the apples, she would slice them and spread them over a rack above the stove to dry. I remember looking at that rack, wires woven together to make quarter inch squares, and imagining it was something magical. It would always excite me when I walked into her house and saw the rack, sometimes filled with apples already, sometimes not. Either way, I knew something great was in the works. I tend to remember that production each year fall rolls around. My dad just said Granny would growl at him any time he would sneak a slice from the rack before they had dried. I always remember her looking the other way when I did it...

Apples still grow on the apple tree at my Granny's house.

Because I love fall food and apples are a huge part of that, here is my recipe for apple upside down biscuit cake:

Apple topping:
3 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 C brown sugar
2 or 3 peeled granny smith apples (But really, any apples you have will do. I have made this with the red and yellow colored apples from the tree that grows outside my dad's house, and it was delicious.)
A pinch or two of fresh grated nutmeg

Biscuit cake:
1 C flour
1/4 C granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
5 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 C buttermilk

Fist, see if you can peel an apple without breaking the peel. Apparently it is good luck if you can do it. My Granny was pretty lucky :-)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

In a cast iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add brown sugar and a few grates of nutmeg. Stir to mix until sugar is incorporated, then remove from the heat. Add apples. If you'd like, you can simply arrange the apples in an aesthetically pleasing manner and leave it at that. I prefer to mix the apples in with the brown sugar mixture, then just make sure the bottom of the pan is covered with apples. I have tried this both ways, it is good no matter what. Set the pan aside.

In a medium bowl whist together all dry ingredients, then add butter and using your hands work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles course meal. Add the buttermilk and mix just until incorporated. Pour the biscuit dough over the apples. It is not necessary to completely cover the apples, but try to spread the mixture evenly over the apples, spreading the dough out to about one inch from the sides of the pan.

Bake the cake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and firm to the touch. Let the cake cool a bit before inverting it onto a plate or cookie sheet. Replace any apples that stick to the skillet.

I hope you enjoy this lovely fall treat! It is great for dessert or breakfast/brunch. If you try it, let me know how it turns out! (And if you were able to peel an apple in one piece.)