Granny Smith apples are the star of this easy, old-fashioned dessert
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out, seeds and pod reserved
1/2 cup (125 mL) streusel (recipe follows)
8 small sprigs fresh mint
Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 F (160 C).
With an apple corer, remove the core of each apple, from the top through to the bottom.
Arrange the apples upright in a heavy-duty 10- or 12-inch (25- or 30-cm) nonreactive pot with 4-inch (10-cm) sides. Place 1 cinnamon stick inside the hollowed-out center of each apple.
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, Calvados or applejack, water, lemon zest, nutmeg and vanilla seeds and pod. Pour the mixture all around the apples. With a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil, partially cover the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat on the stovetop.
Carefully seal the pot tightly with foil. Transfer the pot to the oven, and bake until the apples are tender when pierced with a thin skewer, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the foil very carefully when testing to avoid the steam in the pot. (It's OK if the skin has split on some of the apples).