Surely You Jest …

What to do with all those delicious Upper Valley apples? Try this savory Co-op chef-made apple crisp recipe.

Peaches and blueberries are in season. I need to make a spontaneous dessert. I have a guest who doesn’t “do” dairy, so I’m playing around with coconut butter. As I blend a number of ingredients for the topping, I casually mention that I think I will make a “pandowdy!” My guest cracks up and says I made up the name. It immediately gets Googled and there it is, pandowdy! She also finds a buckle, crumble, crisp, grunt, slump, short cake, long cake, and boy bait. So, what gives?

We live in such a rich food region. Starting with strawberries in early summer and finishing with apples in the fall the biggest problem becomes, how do we deal with this bounty?

My wife has her angle, she makes jam. When it’s in season, it goes into a jam. It is one way to “preserve” the fruit, literally. Not too long ago canning and pickling was a way of life, one of the few ways to extend the harvest. These prizes were tucked away in the root cellar along with the keeper vegetables. The smokehouse was busy curing meat for the winter months and someone was in the kitchen making an apple creation.

So what do all of the different names mean? The cooks in American kitchens have always had to be resourceful. The names reflect the ingredients on hand and traditions passed down by the family. If there was day-old bread around it went on top of apples with molasses and became “Brown Betty.”  If there was leftover pie crust it went on top of apples and became a “pandowdy.” Feelin’ fancy? Whip up some biscuit dough, put it on the apples, and you have a “cobbler!” Refined sugar was a pretty scarce commodity for most households, so you find the cheaper alternatives like brown sugar and molasses in a lot of recipes. Regional twists also come into play where a ‘grunt’ in Virginia is a ‘slump’ in Rhode Island! It was a veritable patchwork quilt of culinary creativity!

Surely you jest? No I am not kidding, and please stop calling me Shirley!

The classic is apple crisp. For a regional twist add some maple sugar in the topping. Leave the peels on for extra vitamins and fiber. A few chopped almonds will add enough protein to pass as a breakfast.

Apple Crisp

Serves 8


  • 7 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced.
  • 4 tsp. lemon juice.
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup butter, room temperature


  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • In a mixing bowl combine apples, half the cinnamon, lemon juice, and vanilla. 
  • Casually layer apples in a 9×12 baking pan.
  • Combine brown sugar, half the cinnamon, oatmeal, and butter and blend thoroughly by hand.
  • Sprinkle mixture over the apples.
  • Bake approximately 45 minutes until topping browns nicely and apples are tender.
  • Optional: Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream 
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Jamie King

Jaime retired from the Co-op in 2022. A chef at the Co-op for 11 years, he finished his career in inventory control and recipe development for the Prepared Foods Department. An Omnivore, his favorite food is chocolate but he will eat most anything. He lives by the lake in Grantham with his lovely wife and their dog Maddie.

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