Today marks the first official day of autumn, a date that’s somehow synonymous with apples — apple picking, apple cider, and the ever-popular apple crisp or crumble. From a culinary standpoint, there’s little difference in the two except a crumble is generally topped with an oat-based streusel and a crisp with a flour and brown sugar mix. The bonus feature of any crisp/crumble though is that you can also add a splash of whiskey to make it “Celtic,” a few blackberries or cranberries to give it color, or a bottom crust to turn it into a pie! Topping it with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or custard is deliciously obligatory. What’s not to love?


Serves 6

Locally grown blackberries are a bit out of season now, but like most fruits and berries, we can still find a few to pop into an autumn crumble like this one from Wade Murphy, chef-proprietor of the award-winning restaurant 1826 Adare. Murphy, also named “Best Chef Munster” at the recent Restaurant Association of Ireland awards, wrote the foreword to my “Christmas Flavors of Ireland” cookbook, so I didn’t hesitate to ask him to share this recipe. You’ll love the crumble topping, which Murphy pre-bakes. He suggests you make a double batch to keep in the freezer to use with any combination of fruits.


1 cup flour

12 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup hazelnuts

1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

3 drops vanilla extract

Pinch sea salt


4 tablespoons butter

4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped

1 cup blackberries

1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar

  1. Make topping. Preheat oven to 325° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse 4 to 5 times, or until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and bake, stirring every 10 minutes, for 35 to 40 minutes, or until crumbs are lightly browned.
  3. Make filling. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add apples and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until apples start to soften. Add blackberries and sugar. Cook 10 minutes longer, or until sugar dissolves.
  4. Transfer mixture to an ovenproof dish or six individual dishes. Sprinkle with crumble topping and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until crumble is golden and filling is bubbling.

Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream, whipped cream, or custard.


Serves 6 to 8

Whiskey-soaked raisins give this crisp a little kick.


1 cup fresh white bread crumbs

1 cup quick-cooking (not instant) Irish oatmeal

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1/3 cup Irish whiskey

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup golden raisins

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 pounds Granny Smith or Braeburn apples

1/3 cup sugar

  1. Make topping. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, oatmeal, butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  2. Make filling. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring whiskey and water to boil. Add raisins and vanilla, stir, and then remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly butter an 8-inch square glass baking pan.
  4. Transfer raisins and their liquid to a large bowl. Peel, core, and slice apples; toss with sugar and raisins. Spoon half of apples into prepared dish, top with half bread crumbs mixture; repeat with remaining apples and bread crumbs mixture.
  5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until apples are tender and topping is crisp and browned. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.


Apple cranberry crumble

Apple cranberry crumble

Serves 8 to 10

This deep-dish crumble comes from Mary Flahavan, matriarch of the famous family that has grown and milled oats in a two hundred year old mill beside the River Mahon in Kilmacthomas, County Waterford. This recipe and photo come from Tasty Oat Recipes by Mary Flahavan.


4 large cooking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

1 1/2 cup/175 g fresh or frozen cranberries

1/2 cup/115 g granulated sugar

2 tbsp. water


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1/4 cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons butter, chilled

1 large egg, beaten


1 cup all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons butter, chilled

1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/2 cup Flahavan’s porridge oats

  1. Make pastry. Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine flour and sugar in a large bowl, and with a pastry cutter or your fingertips, cut or work in butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add enough beaten egg to bind pastry. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit a large pie dish and sprinkle with flour. Roll out pastry on parchment, and then slide pastry into dish. Press into sides and base of dish, prick bottom with a fork, and bake blind for about 15 minutes.
  2. Make filling. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring apples, cranberries, sugar, and water to boil. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until apples are slightly tender. Remove pastry from oven and fill with fruit.
  3. Make crumble. Combine flour, sugar, butter, and 1/4 cup oats in a food processor; pulse 4 to 5 times to form coarse crumbs. Stir in remaining oats. Sprinkle crumble over fruit and bake for about 40 minutes, or until crumble is golden and filling is bubbling. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream.


Margaret M. Johnson’s Recipes column appears every other week in the Irish Echo. Her ”Favorite Flavors of Ireland” is a “labor of love and tribute to her 30 years of travel there. It offers more than 100 best-loved recipes from her previous 10 cookbooks and celebrates the special flavors of each Irish season: Spring/An t-Earrach, Summer/An Samhradh, Autum/An Fómhar, Winter/An Geimhreadh.” To order a signed copy, visit