Bourbon Fruit Crumble, and the Story of Us

bourbon fruit crumble from @freshandfoodie

Apple crumble holds a special place in my heart. Not only is it one of the first things my husband (then boyfriend) ever made for me, but the story behind it also left a lasting impression that we still joke about to this day.

He and I met within the first few days of being on campus our freshman year of college. At Bradley University, to be exact (as if you’ve actually heard of it). And within those few days — when your willingness to participate in anything and everything is high — we had both willingly enrolled in Club BU, a group of new students that host high school seniors overnight to give them a feel of what the university and campus life is like. He was the leader of my group, and aside from him calling me a few times with Club-related things, the extent of our interactions was limited.

Come December, I’d basically forgotten about him until I spotted him one night in the dorms around finals time. Rather, he spotted me. With my girlfriends — drinking tickets in hand — that we’d received from campus police a few minutes earlier for boozing in the dorms. Underage, of course. I don’t remember exactly what he said to me, but there he was — standing in the doorway of his room in his boxers — crassly poking fun at our unfortunate situation. I’m also unsure of what I said to him in return, but I’m sure it wasn’t anything particularly ladylike.

Despite those two encounters, we didn’t really meet until second semester of our freshman year when we were both enrolled in the same Western Civ class. Also enrolled in that class was a mutual friend — an acquaintance of mine and a fraternity brother of his. Somewhere along the way, we ended up being more formally introduced, and afterwards we started talking more and more. And that talking lead to occasional hang outs. However, college was still too fresh and new for the both of us at that time, and neither him or I were particularly interested in starting a relationship. So the night before summer break, we took our first picture together during a night out at the Lucky Lady, and then parted ways. No harm done.


The following fall, when we both returned as sophomores, we reconnected and casually started talking and hanging out again. This time it was a little more serious, but still not serious serious. This was basically the story of our second year together at Bradley.

Junior year is when things started to pick up, and when things were good, they were good. But as with most college relationships, ours wasn’t without its fair share of drama. There were breakups (a few of them). And there were tears. But for one reason or another, we always came back to each other.


During one of those not-so-great times, I decided, on a whim, to go to London for a few weeks. This was before cell phones and WiFi, which meant I was really off the grid — and that’s exactly what I wanted. And probably just what I needed. And him, too.

Upon my return, things changed. I’d missed him and he missed me. That time away from each other had done us some good — we grew up. Something clicked in both of us that made us realize that perhaps we really were right for each other after all.

And we’ve been together ever since.

Shortly afterwards, I graduated from Bradley and started my first real job. He stayed behind to finish his Master’s degree. We tried our best to see each other every other weekend — alternating who would do the traveling. On one of my weeks visiting him, he decided to make me dinner — tuna casserole and apple crumble. Pretty impressive for a college boy. And while I sat at the counter and watched him cook, he did the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen anyone do in a kitchen.

He held the apple in his left hand and hacked at it with a knife in his right hand. There was no cutting board. He was literally holding the apple in front of him and just whacking away at it — ninja style.

I nearly died.

Granted, I didn’t know much about cooking back then, but I knew enough to know that what he was doing was wrong, not to mention dangerous. I applauded his efforts and then instructed him on the proper (or at least more proper) way to cut an apple. We finished making the crumble together. Dinner was delicious.

Now, even all these years later, I still cut the apples any time we make apple crumble. I still make jokes about his knife skills (although he has gotten much better). And I still get a little weary when I see him sharpening my Santoku. But all that aside, these little moments remind me of that time. The time we finally clicked.

And while the story of our relationship may seem dysfunctional (especially to those who lived it with us), I think the important takeaway — looking back on it now — is that we did it together. We grew up together. We experienced some of life’s most defining moments together. And that prepared us to take on the rest of our lives together.

And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

The recipe below is the evolution of the apple crumble he made for me that day. A more grown up version, if you will.

Bourbon Fruit Crumble (serves 6 – 9, depending on portion size)

What you need:

For the filling:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds of pears, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened dried cherries
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon

For the crumble:

  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts (I used a mix of whole and pieces)
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted


  • Vanilla coconut milk ice cream (optional)

How you do it:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. 
  2. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the filling, making sure everything is well coated. Transfer mixture to a large skillet and cook over medium heat for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, or until the fruit has softened slightly and a syrup begins to form. Transfer filling to an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish.
  3. For the crumble topping, mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit and bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 325 degrees, or until the topping is golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes before serving. Top with scoop of coconut milk ice cream (optional).

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