Did you know March 11 is Johnny Appleseed Day? When I was small, every school child in the United States was taught about John Chapman, the nurseryman who traveled the early 19th-century American frontier planting apple trees and distributing seeds to the settlers and Native Americans. We learned that “Johhny Appleseed” was a conservationist, humanitarian, herbal healer, and philanthropist.
What they didn’t tell us in grade school was that the apples that grew on those seed-grown trees were much too sour for snacking or baking a pie, too sour for anything except turning into hard cider. As Michael Pollan put it, Johnny Appleseed was popular and legendary with American frontier settlers because he was “the guy bringing the booze.”
So for Johnny Appleseed Day, I had it in mind to bake an apple sourdough that included hard cider. I did use hard cider the first time I made it, but I like this version with sweet cider a bit better. The dough is still plenty sour from the high proportion of sourdough starter. The sweetness of the chunky walnuts and cider-soaked dried apples is a welcome contrast.