Southwestern Virginia Fried Apples

One of the treats from my childhood always was breakfast, especially when prepared by my aunts when we visited on their farms in southwestern Virginia. Aside from seemed like endless plates of bacon or salted country ham, fried eggs, and from-scratch biscuits (there was no other way), one staple was fried apples. Usually tart and gnarly, these green native versions had dropped from, or were hand-picked, from a tree that had been planted in the backyard of the white farmhouse. Today, I "make do" with organic Granny Smith apples from Whole Foods, but the idea is the same. The Granny Smith variety originates from Australia, and has an interesting history. For more details on these tart beauties, click on this link:

At any rate, here is my "secret method" developed by trial and error, since none of the family recipes were written down, at least to my knowledge.

*Cut the Granny Smith apples (minus the core) into relatively thin slices, between 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch thick.

*Add a liberal amount of olive oil to the bottom of a cold stainless steel frying skillet.

*Place the sliced apples in the cold skillet, and add brown sugar liberally to the exposed apple slices, as well as "through the cracks" down into the oil base on the skillet bottom.

*Turn on the heat. Gas stoves are ideal, since they heat up the skillet faster. It's important to start the process in a cold skillet to reduce oil splatter.

*As the apples heat up, the oil and the brown sugar will form a sort of sauce and the apple slices will begin to "cook down." Use a set of tongs to move the slices around, and to flip the slices over so that both sides get exposed to the hot skillet. Add additional brown sugar to the slices in order to maintain sufficient sugar to caramelize the "sauce" and have some of the apple slices coated with crisp brown sugar. In my case, I don't want the apple slices to be mushy, but to be cooked with firmness along with some crispness from the caramelized brown sugar in some places. More brown sugar is better than less brown sugar, and the final touch is seeing the apples bubbling away in a small amount of olive oil/brown sugar sauce the final few minutes. Finally, set the heat on "simmer" until the apples are ready to be spooned onto the plates.

This photograph illustrates the apples about halfway through the process.

For me, a perfect "special breakfast," especially on Sunday mornings, is this fried apples dish along with scrambled eggs, toast, and lots and lots of orange juice along with serious coffee. Try it, and let me know how you like it.

In addition, although I haven't tried it yet, I have heard that this dish, served warm/hot with vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche makes for a terrific dessert.


If you enjoy this blog, please mention it to others who may be interested.

James Kennedy George, Jr (Jim George)
Author, Reunion, a novel about relationships.


4 Responses

  1. Nancy p
    Forget olive oil. Nothing beats real butter! That is what makes this recipe so decadent. Also a liberal sprinkling of cinnamon
  2. Peggy Wiseman
    I began my life and spent my early 8 years in Southwest Virginia many years ago. Our house was on the property of an old apple orchard, and there were 9 apple trees which bore different kinds of apples. I especially remember the one tree which dropped many of the Granny Smith-like green apples, but don't know if my folks were particular about what kind of apples they used for the wonderful fried apples we had often. They were made very much as Jim has mentioned. Besides the fried apples, we did about everything else that could be done with apples, but the fried ones for breakfast stand out in my mind many years later.. I can see my family sitting out on the back screened porch, looking across the yard at all the apple trees and downing that wonderful sweet dish. We often visited my Dad's sisters who lived in Abingdon, about 15 miles from where we lived. It was a huge old fashioned home, and inside, there was always food. My Aunt Fannie would wake us up from our warm beds so we could make it down for that fantastic breakfast. Uncle Bernard sat at the end on one end of the table serving fried eggs from a big plate, very much like one would dish out steak or other main dishes. Serving bowls filled the table with home made bisquits, ham, sausage, pork chops and bacon, sometimes all at one meal. There was always gravy, but best of all were the wonderful fried apples, made with the home grown apples from the orchard trees. Before olive oil was known to be better for folks, home-made butter or lard was used to make the thickened juice of the apples. The huge bowl was always gone by the end of the meal, I have made fried apples many times, but never had the fresh apples here in Texas which we had in southwest Virginia. Fried apples. never tasted the same, and never since I was a child have I eaten such grand breakfasts like we had in my early childhood.
  3. A similar tasty dish . . fried bananas or plantains. Peel and cut into slices 1/4-1/3 inch thick, add just a little oil (or butter I suppose) into the pan, put a small amount of brown sugar and cinnamon on the slices and cook on both sides until the sugar caramelizes a bit. The bananas provide some of the cooking oil so not very much oil is req'd initially. Delicious side dish with fish, fish tacos, enchiladas, and so on. Possibly a dessert with ice cream -- haven't tried yet.
  4. I've attached below some email comments that were sent to me directly. As you might imagine, the main criticism was that in the "old days" of southwestern Virginia, the cooks, especially the farm cooks, used butter, or even worse (lard) as the oil. Nevertheless, in 2014, I use olive oil and brown sugar, and it works just fantastically well for my palate. Comments: From WM: Wow… Its only 10:30 am and I’m ready for lunch! Thanks From BA: Mmmm.. I’m making those apples! Thanks, Jim From BB: My mouth is watering, can’t wait to try them… From PS: I bet your aunts used butter and didn't leave the peelings on the apples. From SJ: Excuse me.... You MUST use half bacon grease, half butter, sprinkle white sugar over, cover skillet , cook til apples swell, turn over add more white sugar and cook til syrupy. From PW: We had 9 apple trees in our back yard in Virginia, all different kinds. We did have lots of fried apples and only difference was that we used pure butter. I had never heard of olive oil! From GM: This looks like a good topping for the Belgian Waffles that I make. From ME: I'll try to convince my wife to make this. Yummy! She also makes a "mean" apple crisp. From CB: I enjoyed your fried apples blog. I read it aloud to my wife and she confirmed that it is essentially the same way she prepares fried apples. Sometimes it’s granny smith apples, but only when other crisp, tart apples are not available. She fixes fried apples about once a month and we shop for apples at the local farmer's market. I also grew up eating fried apples – my Mom and both Grandmothers fixed fried apples for breakfast and for dinner (I love a dinner of pinto beans, collard greens {or kale} and fried apples, with cornbread). I can personally vouch for fried apples a la mode for dessert, as well as fried apples on waffles. From BA: I think I am one of the few who doesn't eat Cracker Barrel's apples...too "southernly" sweet. Reminds me of that disgusting salad with the marshmallows and coconut. Obviously I am not a southern cook. From CS: The fried apples sounded delicious. From WS: I always wondered how they did those apples. Thanks for the secrets.

Leave a comment