Apples are everywhere at the farmers’ markets right now. Along with pumpkins and Indian corn, this fruit symbolizes our romantic ideals of harvest season and reaping what we sow, with good reason. Apples can be stored through the winter in a cool, dry, dark place for as long as they last before you eat them. That’s good news for those of us trying our best to eat local and do it with joy and flavor.

Let’s assume we’re lucky enough to have a couple of bushels in a dehumidified closet of a spare bedroom. What can you do with that many apples, without growing sick to death of them before spring brings us strawberries? Besides frying, stewing or baking apples to serve alongside pork, loading them into the cavity of a roasting chicken, simmering them into applesauce, dicing them into sage-and-cornbread stuffing for turkey, there’s always dessert!

Savor the flavor off-season

Over-wintering fresh apples is possible if you monitor air temperatures and moisture. Because we have humidity and mildew problems in the South, this can be tricky to accomplish, but it’s worth a try. The idea is to keep apples at 30 to 40 degrees, with humidity between 80 and 90 percent. (Winter squash and onions can stand it warmer but need lower humidity: 50 to 55 degrees, and 60 to 70 percent humidity). Check stored apples weekly to see if any are rotting, and remove them before they infect the whole bushel. This is true even if you’re storing them in a spare fridge in your garage. One bad apple spoils the whole bunch!

Who doesn’t love apple pie? Your mother’s or your lover’s or bought from a favorite baker. Apple tart, double-crust American pie, apple crumble, crisp and cobbler. There are as many ways to love an apple-based sweet as there are names for it. The following dessert is a standby for me. Not too heavy, nor complicated, it’s devoured warm from the oven and leftovers are eaten for breakfast (no more sugar than homemade granola). It has the added bonus of filling the house, as it bakes, with its comforting apple-cinnamon-oatmeal-cookie smell.

The topping for Apple Crisp might be called a “crumble” in some parts of the country. In the Amish cookbook from which I have adapted it, it’s called “crunch topping” and recommended for use with one quart sweetened, slightly thickened fruitmost likely fruit that has been put up in quart canning or freezer jars (which might need thickening after unsealing or defrosting) or through drying. My husband Jim tells the story of his grandmother, born at the end of the 19th century, threading apple slices onto string as you would cranberries for yuletide, and hanging them to dry (as herbs do) in the attic bedrooms of the farmhouse she shared with his other grandmother. Grandmother would cut down slices as needed to make fried apple pies all the way into spring. These days, we’re more likely to use a dehydrator and seal them into Ziplocs for the deep freeze, but the intention remains the same: to preserve what’s in season for the off-season, and to make good on the fullness of harvest.

Standby Apple Crisp

5 cups oatmeal
2 1/2 cups brown sugar (turbinado is good)
5 cups whole wheat pastry or white all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

This recipe makes enough topping for at least six batches. Blend with your hands to distribute the elements and freeze in airtight containers to keep handy for quick use of fresh or frozen apples, pears, plums, peaches, blueberries or a combination.

5 to 7 medium apples (between the size of a baseball and a softball), peeled, cored and sliced into eighths
1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar (according to taste and apples’ tartness)
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter

Mix sugar, flour and cinnamon and toss with apples. Spread in a buttered baking dish and dot with two tablespoons of butter. Blend 3 cups of topping mixture with 1/2 cup of butter until mixture resembles crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over apple filling. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes until apples are soft and topping is the color of cookies. Serve warm with whipped cream. Alternatively, you can use a cast iron (or other ovenproof) skillet and simmer the filling on the stove for 15 minutes before covering with topping and baking for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

If you are using dried apples, reconstitute them with 1 quart water for each 1 pound of dried fruit and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes before proceeding.