McLEAN, Va. — Looking for something to decorate a yule season dinner table? If you've been busy picking apples, you might want to try apple baskets or apple candle holders.
For apple baskets, start with cold, fresh apples. Keep a bowl of lemon juice on hand to apply the juice to all exposed apple flesh, so it won't turn brown. Cut a disk off the blossom end of the apple to form a stable base.
Cut away two wedges at the top of the apple, on either side of the stem, so that you are left with a basket on the bottom and a handle arching over the top. (The stem, which should be removed, will be sticking straight up from the center of the handle.)
Hollow out the inside and underneath the handle, being careful to leave inch of flesh on the apple for strength.
Use imagination to scallop the edges of the basket, carve designs on the side or cut the basket into an interesting shape.
After rubbing all exposed flesh with lemon juice, fill the basket with ice cream, fresh fruit, spiced applesauce, berries and cream, jelly or anything you can think of, and serve.
For apple candle holders, use large, round and squatty apples (Rome or large Stayman). Select apples that will sit stably on a flat surface. Core the apple from the stem end; do not puncture through the calix or blossom end of the apple. Insert the candle, then decorate with holly or other greenery.
The techniques for creating these apple baskets and apple candles are offered by the International Apple Institute, which also suggests:
--Decorating the dining room with baskets of fresh apples and whole nuts.
--Creating fancy carved apple garnishes for hors d'oeuvre trays.
--Serving hot spiced apple cider, topped with whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon and clove. (Use a whole cinnamon stick as a swizzle for a special touch.)
--Mixing apple preserves or coarsely chopped fresh apples and chopped walnuts into cranberry sauce--or serving cranberry apple jelly.