Comfort me with applejack, for the history and mythology of the apple and man is a metaphoric morass! This unassuming fruit C brought about Adam's fall, and a golden apple inscribed "To the fairest" and awarded to Aphrodite by the Trojan Paris caused the fall of a city. Legend has it that William Tell, the brave Swiss patriot, cleanly felled an apple with bow and arrow from the head of his young son on pain of death from the capturing Austrians. Centuries later, this same falling fruit prompted Sir Isaac Newton to come up with some bright new thoughts on gravity and motion.

In this country, the Puritans were the first to plant apple seedlings in Massachusetts, and later settlers -- like John Chapman, alias Johnny Appleseed -- planted apple trees throughout the country wherever growing conditions were favorable. Since apple trees are sturdy, they flourished in surprising climates, and nearly every farm had a tree or two.

In our own yard, an aged and poorly trimmed apple tree stands at the end of the kitchen walk, providing fragrant blossoms in spring, shade in summer and fruit in fall. Throughout the year, the tree offers a haven for birds and is a fine place to hang a bird-feeder in winter. In other seasons, its lower limb furnishes a spot to dry waders, props fishing rods and even, every once in a while, a bamboo rake.

We do love our apples -- they may be Americans' favorite fruit and are certainly one of the best bargains on the market. And thanks to excellent storage facilities, apples can be enjoyed year-round. Since mid-October is the peak of apple season, why not take advantage of local orchards' bounty and pick your own favorite varieties? Booklets listing nearby pick-your-own farms are available in both Maryland and Virginia public libraries.

An apple a day may not keep the doctor away, but it does have B vitamins, calcium, iron, phosphorous and potassium. Surely a mellow, raw apple eaten out of hand is pure pleasure. All this, and beauty, too. And apples are incredibly versatile in cookery: They can be baked, boiled, broiled, fried, candied, canned, dried and frozen. The sweet and tart apple can also be used in breads, pies, cakes, cookies, sauces, ketchup, jams, jellies, chutneys and relishes. It can be pressed for cider and apple juice, turned into high-quality vinegar, and, of course, it forms the soul of apple brandy, or applejack, as it is sometimes called.

When apples are plentiful, it is economical to buy them in bulk and can or freeze them. Some cooks with a good hot attic even string apple wedges on cotton twine and hang them under the eaves to dry. Under ideal conditions, drying takes a week or two. Apples may be frozen peeled and whole, or cut up. Most cooks freeze them in slices suitable for pies and other cooking purposes. One of the easiest methods is to dip apple slices for one minute in a mixture of three tablespoons of lemon juice and four quarts of water to prevent discoloration. Rinse slices in cold water and drain. Slices can then be packed dry or with sugar. If adding sugar, use one cup sugar to each three to five cups peeled apple slices, depending on taste. Sprinkle slices evenly with sugar and pack in freezer bags or containers, leaving a little room for expansion.

Whole, fresh apples should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place, such as a root cellar, where there is no danger or freezing. The fruit can also be put in a Styrofoam cooler-chest lined with newspaper; when the chest is filled with unblemished apples, put a couple of cellulose sponges on top, and then set the lid in place. Packed this way and stored in a cool, dark closet or other such spot where there is no chance of freezing, the apples should last well into the winter. It is pleasant to pick beautiful red or yellow or green apples in the fall, store them, then bring out them fresh, fragrant and shiny at Christmas -- a small substitute for the old-fashioned pleasure of finding barrels of winey-smelling apples stored in a barn.

No matter what variety you pick, apples fit easily into meal planning. Every apple from red delicious to pippin to winesap and granny smith can be used. Baked ham almost demands a dish of fluffy, cinnamon-laced applesauce, and country ham with fried green apples is a southern classic. Apples and sauerkraut combine in many ways to enhance goose, game and pork. Dumplings, fritters, omelets, souffle's, breads and cakes all benefit from the apple. Salads, such as chicken, turkey and tuna, gain crunch from the fresh, raw apple as do many molded salads. What is Halloween without bobbing for apples, or a Christmas stocking without an apple in the toe? Apple brandy warms us before the fire on a wintry evening, and the burnished fruits shine as a seasonal centerpiece on the table. Every cook is sure to have a favorite apple recipe. Here are a few to add to your list. A BAKER'S DOZEN VARIETIES OF APPLES AND THEIR USES

Wealthy: tart, good for eating and cooking

Jonathan: an all-purpose apple

Red Delicious: sweet, good for eating, desserts and salads

Grimes Golden: excellent for desserts and cooking

McIntosh: Juicy and sweet, delightful to eat. Really too tender for most cooking.

Cortland: a mild, all-purpose apple

Golden Delicious: sweet, great dessert apple

R.I. Greening: tart, best for pies and other cooking

Stayman Winesap: spicy-tart, all-purpose

York: firm, good for pies and all cooking, as it holds its shape

Baldwin: all-purpose

Rome Beauty: a big apple, popular for baking, fairly bland flavor

Northern Spy: a great all-purpose apple

PORK CHOPS AND APPLE RINGS (4 servings) 4 thick pork chops, loin or rib, trimmed of excess fat 2 or 3 tablespoons butter 3 onions, sliced Salt, pepper, pinch of sage 1/2 cup chicken broth 1/2 cup apple juice 3 apples, cored, unpeeled, sliced horizontally

Brown the chops in butter and place them in a casserole, or use the frying pan if it has a heat-proof cover. Place the onion slices on the chops and add the pan drippings, seasonings and liquids. Cover and bake 1 hour at 350 degrees. Add the apple rings to the casserole, basting with pan liquid, and bake another 13 to 20 minutes, uncovered. Very nice when served with baked white or sweet potatoes and coleslaw.

SAUSAGE AND APPLES (4 servings) 6 apples 1 pound country sausage links

Core and slice 4 of the apples. Prick sausage skins with a fork to keep them from bursting. Place in a large skillet over moderate heat. As soon as sausage fat covers the bottom of skillet, add apple slices. Turn sausages several times to brown on all sides. Turn apples once to brown both sides. Quarter and core remaining 2 apples. When sausages and apples are nicely browned, drain on paper towels and transfer to serving platter. Garnish with raw apple quarters.

APPLE AND RAISIN STUFFING FOR POULTRY (Yield: enough stuffing for 5- to 6-pound bird) 3 tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped 1/2 cup seedless raisins 5 cups cubed, soft bread 1/4 cup sugar Juice and grated peel of half a lemon 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup sweet cider

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Toss all together well. Stuff bird with mixture. Recipe may be doubled for a 10- to 12-pound bird. If using recipe to stuff chicken or turkey, add 2 tablespoons (or more) melted butter. Goose and duck are fatty enough not to require this addition. CIDERY APPLES

Cut unpeeled apples into medium-thin slices. Soak apple slices in cider 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and sprinkle slices with cinnamon sugar. Then fry in butter. Excellent side-dish with ham or pork. GRILLED CINNAMON APPLES

Place cored apples in center of 24-inch length of aluminum foil folded in half. Fill holes with a tablespoon each of cinnamon candies and raisins. Dot with butter. Bring foil up loosely over apples, and twist ends together to seal. Cook over glowing coals 30 minutes, or until done. Serve with heavy cream if desired.

APPLE AND ONION CASSEROLE (Serves 8) 12 medium onions, peeled and cut in quarters 6 green apples, peeled and cut in quarters 2 tablespoons green peppers, chopped 8 slices crisp bacon, crumbled Salt, pepper and parsley to taste 1 cup cider 1/2 cup bread crumbs 1/4 cup brown sugar

Put onions, apples, peppers, bacon in buttered deep baking dish. Add salt, pepper and parsley. Pour cider over all. Top with bread crumbs mixed with brown sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. (Can be made day ahead, refrigerated and reheated.) Serve warm.

BAKED CARROTS AND APPLES (6 to 8 servings) 8 medium carrots 6 apples 1/4 cup honey 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons butter

Peel carrots and cut in half-inch slices. Boil, covered, in salted water 12 to 15 minutes, or until tender. Peel, core and slice apples. Drain carrots and add them to the apples. Stir in apples, honey and salt. Turn into a shallow baking dish and dot with butter. Cover and bake in 350-degree oven about 45 minutes. Uncover, stir, and cook 10 minutes longer.

EASY APPLE CHUTNEY (Makes about 2 cups) 1 cup water 5 tablespoons sugar 3 tablespoons vinegar 1/2 teaspoon allspice 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon dry mustard 1 medium-size ginger root, peeled and cut into small pieces 6 tart apples, pared and cut in small pieces 1 green pepper, cored, seeded and cut in small pieces 1/2 cup seedless raisins

Mix in saucepan and boil for 5 minutes: water, sugar, vinegar, allspice, salt, dry mustard and ginger root. Add apples, pepper and raisins, and simmer for 45 minutes. Chill. Serve as condiment with curry.

APPETIZER APPLES

Core a large apple. Mix finely chopped apple, grated cheddar cheese and enough mayonnaise to make a creamy consistency. Fill hollow apple with cheese spread. Cheese-stuffed apples can be cut into crosswise slices or you can surround the apple with crackers and let guests cut their own slices. Additional apples may be filled with favorite dips and grouped on a tray as attractive appetizers.

SWEET APPLETS (36 small muffins) 1/3 cup butter plus 4 tablespoons 1 cup sugar 1 egg 1 1/2 cups flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/3 cup milk 1 1/2 cups pared, shredded apples Cinnamon, to taste

Butter small muffin tins. Cream 1/3 cup butter and 1/2 cup sugar. Blend in unbeaten egg. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Add alternately with the milk to the creamed mixture. Stir in the shredded apple. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full and bake 25 to 35 minutes at 350 degrees, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from tins and cool for 10 minutes. Melt reserved 4 tablespoons butter in small pan. Combine reserved 1/2 cup sugar with cinnamon in a small bowl. Dip each muffin in melted butter, and then roll in cinnamon sugar. Serve warm or cold.

APPLE CAKE (10 to 12 servings) 3 or 4 apples, peeled and thinly sliced 2 teaspoons cinnamon 2 cups plus 5 tablespoons sugar 4 eggs 1 cup oil 1/4 cup orange juice 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla 3 cups flour 1 tablespoon baking powder

Peel, core and slice apples. Place in a bowl with cinnamon and 5 tablespoons sugar. Mix well. In a large bowl, beat eggs and stir in oil, orange juice and vanilla. Add flour and baking powder and beat well. Stir in apples. Pour into a buttered and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake for 70 minutes at 350 degrees or until it tests done.

APPLE CREAM COFFEE CAKE (10 servings) 1/2 cup chopped walnuts 2 teaspoons cinnamon 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 cup butter 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 cups sifted flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 cup sour cream 1 medium apple, sliced

Butter a 9-inch tube pan with removable bottom. In small bowl, combine walnuts, cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar.

In mixing bowl, cream butter with electric mixer at high speed. Gradually add 1 cup sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla. Beat until blended. Add sifted flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda alternately with sour cream until well-combined.

Spread one-half batter in tube pan, top with apples and half of walnut mixture. Pour in rest of batter, then top evenly with rest of walnut mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes, or until cake tests done.

APPLE-BLUEBERRY CRUNCH (8 to 10 servings) 5 to 6 cups McIntosh apples, sliced thin 1/2 cup blueberries 1 cup flour 3/4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon baking powder 3/4 teaspoon salt 1 egg, unbeaten 1/3 cup butter Cinnamon to taste

Place apples and blueberries in bottom of greased, 2-quart baking dish. Mix next 5 ingredients and spread on top of apples. Melt butter and pour on top of mixture. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.