An apple a day helps diversity stay
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 37. Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
School’s back in session, the mornings have become brisk, and we’ve almost seen the last of this summer’s peaches at the market. Apple season’s in full-swing and while they might not rev your engine they way strawberries do, this misunderstood fruit is sorely underrated. Red delicious apples are the one bad apple that have spoiled it for the bunch of the good apples out there (pun intended). The mealy-textured, bland-flavored, superficially too-perfect red delicious apple has none of the characteristics of a good eating apple or a even a good cooking apple. However, it looks good on a produce stand, it travels and stores well so it has become the ubiquitous representative of the rosacea (apple) family. There are probably more cultivars of apples that are extinct than there are currently extant on this planet. Apple offspring are always different than the parent trees that contributed pollen and flower, unless branches are grafted onto rootstock. What better way to celebrate diversity than to search for apples you’ve never heard of. Keep in mind that just because it is obscure does not mean it tastes great, but therein lies the adventure. We challenge you to find an apple you’ve never heard of before. As our friends at RAFT (Renewing America’s Food Traditions) are wont to say, “you’ve got to eat it to save it.”
We prefer to use sour apples for cooking and sweet apples for eating out of hand—which seems to be the rule of thumb. Gala may be the most popular type of apple in these parts, but our favorite varies depending on the intended use. Here are some of our favorites:
- Galas: This sweet apple makes wonderful juice, although you do need a juice extractor.
- Arkansas Black: This beauty lives up to its name, with a dark, forbidden-like hue, reminiscent of the apple the witch gave Snow White. These apples are tart, hearty and crunchy and keep really well.
- Mutsu (AKA Crispin): This is a great eating apple that tops many folks’ lists here in the Piedmont.
- Macintosh: Well-balanced and good for cooking or eating fresh.
- Stayman Winesap: Stores well and is great for pies and cider.
- Buckingham: These large apples are ideal for pies, or mountain-style fried apples.
- Pink Lady: These beauties are best for the kids’ lunch boxes.
- Honeycrisp: When I crave juicy sweetness, this is one apple I might walk a mile to get my hands on. These apples are sweet and crisp like their name implies and are easily one of my favorite snacking apples. I’ve also made apple bitters, using honeycrisp apples, which we show off in the Apple core reviver #2, that we will feature at the Foggy Ridge Cider dinner on October 17
- Gingergold: One of my favorites for cooking, because their balance is amazing and they make the best applesauce.
One of my favorite ways to experience the full flavor of an apple is through cider and hard cider (fermented cider). A longstanding tradition, cidermaking was made popular in America by English settlers from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and hard ciders were the colonial beverage of choice. Believe it or not, “ugly,” misshapen apples with blemishes are some of the best apples for making cider. We feature three different artisanal hard ciders by the glass every day, two from Foggy Ridge in Dugspur, Virginia and one from McRitchie right here in Elkin, North Carolina. If you want a real treat, find some boiled cider (http://www.woodscidermill.com/), and incorporate it into your cold weather morning ritual.
Recipe: New Jersey Cocktail
- 1.25 fl oz Apple Brandy
- 1 sugar cube
- 3 dashes Angostura bitters
- 4 fl oz hard cider (we like Foggy Ridge and McRitchie)
Place sugar cube in a champagne flute (or cocktail glass of choice). Add 3 dashes of bitters and apple brandy, and fill with cider. Makes 1 cocktail
Recipe: Warm Apple Spiced Cake
- 3 cups tart apples (Granny Smith, if you can’t find any at the market)
- 3 cups flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 stick butter, unsalted
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray and set aside. Peel, core and dice apples into 1-inch pieces; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Whisk together. Place butter, oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer. Using paddle attachment, mix on low speed until just blended. Turn speed to high and continue mixing until thoroughly combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and beat on high speed, 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Turn mixer back to medium speed and gradually add dry ingredients. Turn off mixer when ingredients are just blended; avoid over-mixing. Fold in apples. Fold batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean. Makes 12 servings
Fun Facts About Apples:
- Apples date back to 6500 BC.
- Apples release ethylene gas, which accelerates the ripening of other fruit, so give them their own bowl and keep them away from your other produce.
- While there have been between 15,000 and 16,000 different apple varieties in North America, only about 3,000 of those varieties are actually accessible today.
- The largest apple ever picked weighed 3 pounds.
- North Carolina is the seventh largest apple producing state.
- It takes about 36 apples to make one gallon of cider.
- After oranges, apples are the most valuable fruit in the U.S.
- Apples are high in fiber and vitamin C and they help regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and promote heart health.
More Apple Resources:
- Pick your own: http://www.ncapples.com
- Book: Old Southern Apples, by Creighton Lee Calhoun Jr: http://www.amazon.com/Old-Southern-Apples-Creighton-Calhoun/dp/0939923378
- Book: Cider, Hard and Sweet: History, Traditions, and Making Your Own, by Ben Watson: http://www.amazon.com/Cider-Hard-Sweet-History-Traditions/dp/0881504688
- Celebrate: Brushy Mountain Apple Festival: http://www.applefestival.net/n_index.php?
Join us at our Greensboro restaurant on October 17th, for our Hard Cider Dinner with Foggy Ridge.