I love myself a good secret ingredient. And, when I mention a secret ingredient, it is almost always booze.

In this case, the secret boozy ingredient is beer. I like to marinate the apples & cranberries in beer. It gives the crisp a nice little extra something. You probably won’t taste the crisp and think “beer!” but you’ll likely notice a little something extra in the flavor.

Secret Ingredient!

Secret Ingredient!

Oddly enough, the beer seems to keep the apples from browning. You might be thinking Andrea! A little lemon juice will do the same thing! But leftover lemon juice isn’t nearly as much fun to drink.

apples and cranberries marinating in beer

So this is a pretty typical crisp recipe, with the exception of my now not-so-secret ingredient. With regards to the beer, I often use a nice Leinenkugel. Their Sunset Wheat is nice for this. This particular go-around, I used Boulevard Pale Ale. I’ve been thinking that Angry Orchard Hard Cider (maybe the original or the Cinnful Apple?) would also be nice. Feel free to experiment. Please leave comments if you do and let me know how it all turned out!

the finished crisp

So, moving on…

(Only Slightly Boozy) Apple-Cranberry Crisp
Recipe type: Dessert
  • 5 pounds your choice of apples (I used a combo of Granny Smiths and Braeburns.)
  • 1½ cups dried cranberries
  • ½ cup raw sugar (or granulated... I just like to use raw! This is for the fruit mixture.)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 or 3 bottles of beer (plus more for the chef!)
  • 1½ cups flour
  • ¾ cup raw sugar (for the topping)
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup steel cut oatmeal
  • ½ lb cold butter, diced
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  1. Peel and cut apples into bite-sized chunks. Put the apples and cranberries into a bowl and pour enough beer over to cover. Cover with a lid or saran wrap and put into the fridge. Let marinate for a minimum of a few hours or preferably overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9"x13" baking dish. (I usually have extra topping and fruit, so I typically have an extra 8"x8" baking dish on the ready, too. You can scale back the ingredients a bit but, hey, extra dessert!)
  3. Drain the beer from the apples & cranberries. Combine the apples, cranberries, zests, sugar and spices. Pour into the prepared baking dish(es).
  4. Put the flour, raw and brown sugar, kosher salt, oatmeal, butter and vanilla into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the processor until the mixture is approximately in pea-sized crumbles. Scatter the mixture over the apples.
  5. Put the baking dish(es) on sheet pans and bake for 1 hour. Topping will be brown and the apples will be bubbly.
  6. I serve this with vanilla bean ice cream or whipped cream.